Péter Márki-Zay, the Prime Ministerial candidate of the opposition alliance, has challenged incumbent PM Viktor Orbán to a public debate before the 2022 general elections. The last time the two prime ministerial candidates with the best chances of winning clashed publicly one on one, was sixteen years ago.
“Whether they vote for the governing party or against them, people deserve to hear whoever wants to be Hungary’s Prime Minister for the next four years, and that is why I invite Viktor Orbán to a debate,” the opposition alliance’s prime ministerial candidate Péter Márki-Zay wrote recently.
Let’s discuss how we imagine the future of the economy, healthcare or migration, to find out who did what and what we think about our home, Hungary,”
Márki-Zay explained, also claiming that he believed Orbán would say yes and accept the challenge.
The last time Viktor Orbán engaged in a public debate was in 2006, against incumbent Socialist (MSZP) Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány, who according to analysts, was far more convincing and indeed won the elections a few days later. Four years prior, Orbán, as an incumbent Prime Minister, faced MSZP candidate Péter Medgyessy. Most analysts believed that Orbán won the debate, but a few days later Medgyessy and MSZP won the election. The first one-on-one debate between the strongest PM candidate took place in 1998, when Orbán challenged incumbent Socialist PM Gyula Horn (also MSZP), after which Fidesz (in alliance with the Independent Smallholders, Agrarian Workers and Civic Party, a.k.a. FKgP,) won the elections.
Since 2006, Orbán has refused to take on debates, although there has not been one joint candidate or party polled to be nearly as popular as Fidesz and Orbán, which is certainly not the case now.
It has been a matter of speculation for a long time whether the debate would happen this time. At his press briefing held before Christmas, Orbán himself didn’t rule out the possibility. Neither did PMO Head Gergely Gulyás, who recently said that he didn’t know whether there would even be a debate. However, after Márki-Zay’s announcement, Fidesz communications director István Hollik said that “everyone knows that Ferenc Gyurcsány is the boss on the left. And there is no point in debating with an employee,” repeating one of Fidesz’s campaign slogans that Márki-Zay is only the puppet of Gyurcsány. However, it was István Hollik, who during the opposition primaries, loudly excluded the possibility of Márki-Zay winning the race, because according to Hollik’s argument “he is not Gyurcsány’s man.”
In the featured photo: Viktor Orbán and Péter Márki-Zay. Photo via MTI/Facebook