No one can be allowed to engage in violence, Prime Minister Viktor Orban said in an interview to public broadcaster Kossuth Radio on Friday, referring to the recent anti-government demonstrations.
The prime minister said a clear line must be drawn between the expression of one’s political views and vandalism.
The most aggressive and most active of those protesting the recent amendment to the labor code are on the payroll of US financier George Soros, Orban said. He added that the demonstrations were also in part linked to international networks. The prime minister said he also saw traces of this internationally, arguing that “right-wing governments have come under fire everywhere.”
MUST WATCH: As the National Assembly of Hungary descends into chaos, opposition MP Bence Tordai rolls up on PM Orban and trolls him to his face. This is unprecedented. Orban is visibly uncomfortable. He was not counting on this. #Hungary pic.twitter.com/C8XCKN9A6G
— Benjamin Novak (@b_novak) December 12, 2018
Parliament last Wednesday voted to raise the upper threshold for annual overtime from 250 to 400 hours. The opposition blocked the house speaker’s dais and obstructed proceedings with loud whistling and jeering in an attempt to thwart the vote and later demonstrated in the streets. The legislation was signed by President Janos Ader on Thursday.
Orban criticized the damage caused by protesters last week on Kossuth Square, saying that it was “a serious thing in legal terms” to throw smoke bombs at police. “It’s never well-intentioned people throwing smoke bombs,” he said, noting that the point of smoke bombs was to obscure vision. Commenting on injuries sustained by police at the demonstrations, Orban noted that in the 2006 clashes between protesters and police, peaceful demonstrators were charged by mounted police. Orban said he had asked the interior minister to make sure that police respond “firmly but patiently” to protesters’ actions. “And they managed to do just that,” he said, reaffirming the government’s support for the police force.
The prime minister said he believed it has become clear that the amendment to the labor code was “merely an excuse”, arguing that this was not the first time that the opposition was “screaming ‘end of the world’”. Concerning parliament’s approval of the amendment amid the opposition’s attempts to obstruct proceedings, Orban said the ruling parties could not afford to stand down during the session.
Orban said the opposition’s acts of sitting in his chair and trying to block his vote button even had legal implications.
“But lawmaking cannot be obstructed with scandal when you have committed people like us on the other side, and we weren’t engaging in violence,” he said.
Addressing listeners, Orban said Hungarians should not worry, because whatever they may see the opposition do, the government will still carry out its duties. Concerning the legislation itself, Orban said the amendment clearly prohibits forcing anybody to work overtime. “Anyone who says otherwise is lying,” he said. He said it was the economic policies demonstrating a need for workers that protected working people rather than the labor code. Orban said wages have been rising for 4-5 years now. But the law that had been in place prior to the amendment placed “silly restrictions” on those who wanted to make more money and would have been willing to work more, the prime minister said. Just as they have in the past, workers will continue to receive both their regular and overtime pay at the end of the month in the future, too, he said. The amendments are an advantage for Hungarian-owned SMEs that do not have the resources to manage the labor shortage that foreign-owned multinationals have, Orban said.
Commenting on next year’s European parliamentary elections, he said the country needed MEPs who represent Hungary in Brussels and not Brussels in Hungary. Orban said the opposition’s view is that Hungary should be doing whatever Brussels says. As a result, those who send opposition representatives to the EP will be sending people that are not going to be representing Hungary there, he added. He expressed hope that the citizens of many countries will send more representatives to the parliament in Brussels who are dedicated to the national cause and “can turn current trends around”. He highlighted migration as the most important issue and added that the economic policies followed by Brussels were not to Hungary’s benefit.
He said all projections showed that Hungary’s economy would continue to perform well in 2019 and added that the government was determined to make quick decisions if unfavorable global trends make it necessary. “We are also able to handle the thunders well,” Orban said. Hungarians have seen in recent years that they are able to support their families from work and “we are able to make a good living utilizing our own resources,” he said. “We are going to continue on this path.”
As regards the minimum wage, Orban said it was up to employees and employers to agree on it and that the government should act only as a mediator. The cabinet does not want to make the decision even if it has the right to do so, he added. Orban said he had asked the finance minister to make every effort to help the sides reach an agreement.
Commenting on the recent Africa summit, he said that by 2050, there could be 2.5 billion people living on the continent and there won’t be enough room for them. It is necessary to prepare for their outflux and we must be able to protect our borders, he added. At the same time, help must be granted for them to stay at home, he said. Hungary is offering scholarships to 900 African students and once they finish their education, they can return to serve in their homes, he added.