Hungary’s governing Fidesz party has initiated a campaign against opposition parties, which they accuse of attempting to discourage the public from being vaccinated. Their announcement prompted the joint opposition to put up a video in which its leaders call on everyone to be vaccinated, putting the blame for the coronavirus crisis on the government instead.
The purpose of Fidesz’s campaing, according to the party’s communications director István Hollik, is to convince Hungarians not to listen to the “irresponsible anti-vaccination politics of the Left.”
Fidesz Accuses Opposition of Being “Two-Faced”
Hollik said the opposition is responsible for every life which is due to individuals who “listened to the Left and chose not to accept the vaccine which was provided for them.” He said that while the opposition creates petitions and spreads uncertainty around the vaccine, its politicians, such as social-liberal DK leader Ferenc Gyurcsány, vaccinate themselves.
Gyurcsány’s party has opposed the use of the Chinese vaccine due to its lack of available documentation. Their petition aimed at only allowing vaccines in Hungary which have been authorized by the European Medicines Agency.
The Politicization of Vaccination
Fidesz has already shared the campaign’s first video on Facebook, asserting that opposition parties are attempting to discourage people from being vaccinated.
The video is a clip of one of Viktor Orbán’s interviews, in which the prime minister states that if someone does not want to be vaccinated (referring to the opposition), they should not attempt to convince other people not to accept the vaccine. Orbán also accuses opposition leaders of advocating against the vaccine for political gain while they themselves are being vaccinated.
Fidesz has become very vocal about vaccines being a political tool, both domestically and internationally. President János Áder made a speech on Good Friday emphasizing that the act is “immoral, inhuman and unacceptable.”
In a joint press conference with Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus of the World Health Organization, Minister of Trade and Foreign Affairs Péter Szijjártó said that those in Brussels who had turned vaccination into an ideological issue had “practically caused people’s deaths.”
Fidesz Campaign Attacks Independent Mayor
Fidesz’s campaign is already having an impact on opposition officials. The mayor of Hódmezővásárhely, Péter Márki-Zay, a conservative politician elected with the support of the joint opposition, posted to Facebook accusing Fidesz representative János Lázár of framing him for the death of an elderly woman.
According to pro-Fidesz promenad.hu, an anonymous individual sent in a letter explaining that their mother had been an adherent to Márki-Zay, and that his statements had led her to reject vaccination, which ultimately caused her death. The anonymous informant accused the Hódmezővásárhely mayor of being responsible for the deaths of many people, and committing atrocities.
Márki-Zay, suspicious that this event was fabricated by Lázár, responded that if the individual followed any of the mayor’s posts on Facebook, they “would have accepted the vaccine long ago.”
Márki-Zay called on Lázár to specify when he had ever attempted to persuade someone not to be vaccinated, and when he had called hospitals “death factories.”
Opposition Reacts to Fidesz’s “Anti-Vax” Campaign
On Monday, the joint opposition of Párbeszéd, DK, Jobbik, LMP, Momentum, and MSZP posted a video to Facebook, encouraging everyone in Hungary to be vaccinated.
Several opposition leaders have already been vaccinated. LMP representative Péter Ungár and Jobbik leader Jakab Péter were vaccinated
with AstraZeneca. Budapest mayor and Párbeszéd co-leader Gergely Karácsony received
“the vaccine that was available,” and DK leader Ferenc Gyurcsány was administered
the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
In the video the party leaders blame Fidesz for not developing Hungary’s Healthcare system enough, and for forcing more than four thousand healthcare workers to leave their jobs. They say that Hungary’s extreme death rate was caused by government inaction, and that officials chose to focus on trivial things while Hungary’s pressing issues were left unattended.
In addition to the video, their statement reads:
The stance of the opposition party alliance is clear: vaccination should be the only mode for us to defeat the coronavirus and get back our lives. Every Hungarian who registered should receive the vaccine!”
Their post says that “Orbán’s newest campaign of lies is attempting to push the blame onto the opposition in vain.” They say that it has been the government’s faulty decisions which have led to the hundreds of coronavirus-related deaths everyday, as well as the total death rate reaching above 20 thousand people.
Fidesz reacted to the video stating that “left-wing parties are gathering signatures against Chinese and Russian vaccines,” despite the video not mentioning vaccine types at all. The party has called on the opposition to “stop the anti-vaccine petitions and the irresponsible defamation of hospitals and clinics.”
Featured photo illustration by Tamás Kovács/MTI