Hungary: Tensions Among Soros and Orban Rise Amid Elections

Published: 04 December 2017

800px-George Soros - Festival Economia 2012 02George Soros (Photo: Niccolò Caranti, CC BY-SA 3.0)

By Renee Picard

The government of Hungarian PM Viktor Orban is more oppressive than that of Soviet-era Hungary, Hungarian-American philanthropist George Soros said in a video message on Friday, according to The New York Times.

Soros, founder of the Open Society Foundation and Budapest’s Central European University (CEU), said Orban “exploits and oppresses those who are in opposition. In my judgment, the regime now oppresses people more than during the Soviet occupation."

Orban instilled "an anti-democratic system…a mafia regime where they use their leading positions to keep themselves in power and personally enrich themselves," the financier added.

Once allies fighting Communism in the 1980s, Soros now is a common target of Orban, who was a past recipient of a Soros scholarship for study at Oxford. Orban repeatedly attempts to close the CEU. He also claims Soros wants Europe to overflow with migrants despite a caveat to Soros’ pro-migration statements that no country should be forced to accept migrants. Orban holds a ruthless anti-immigration stance.

The PM upped tensions with Soros in a public radio interview on Friday. He allegedly had intelligence services investigate Soros’ influences across the continent and received the completed report last week. He did not disclose any of its findings.

This past year, Orban also launched a billboard campaign against Soros, and mailed eight million Hungarian voters a “national consultation” about an apparent “Soros Plan.”

The shared document purportedly intended to mislead the public about Soros’ influence in the EU and views on migration policies, a statement on Soros’ website said.

“The statements in the national consultation contain distortions and outright lies that deliberately mislead Hungarians about George Soros’s views on migrants and refugees,” the website said. “Hungarian government officials also falsely claim that George Soros is somehow controlling the European Union decision-making process.”

In April 2018, Orban faces elections in Hungary for a chance at a third consecutive term. He is presently a strong candidate for the ruling Fidesz party.

Orban said he expects Soros to be an obstacle to his reelection by supporting his opponents. “By election time they will establish ‘civil centers’ which will work like campaigning parties, meaning the Soros network has entered the Hungarian election campaign,” said Orban.

A spokesperson for the Open Society Foundations told Reuters that the organization plans to open two new centers that will neither interfere with elections nor promote migration, but instead will support health care, local education and anti-poverty programs.

“I have no personal grudge but a difference in principle. I oppose his system,” Soros said.