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Orbán Cabinet Shake-up Begins to Take Shape

2018.04.26.

In the wake of Fidesz’s decisive election victory earlier this month, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has reportedly begun to put together the names that will form his new cabinet.

Following his win, the Hungarian Premier claimed that he would make “significant changes” in government, and that the cabinet would be reshuffled “with mostly new people.” While the final list of proposed ministers will not be known until after May 8th’s official opening of parliament, rumors that are currently making the rounds seem to indicate that, while there will be a number of new faces arriving, many of the Orbán government’s old hands will continue in their posts.

 

Someone Old, Someone New

Of the ministers who have so far announced their plans to leave the Orbán government, perhaps the most prominent is János Lázár, the head of the Prime Minister’s Office, who announced last week that he plans to dedicate the next four years to his constituency in the southeastern Hungarian city of Hódmezővásárhely.

 Serving as a local MP would be “difficult” to reconcile with a role in national politics, he said in an interview to a local radio station on Friday. He added that

There is a life beyond the government; indeed, there is a life beyond Budapest.

In recent months, Lázár generated an international uproar for appearing in a video in which he claimed that “migrants” are pushing “White Christians” out of Vienna, making the city “dirtier,” “poorer,” and less white.

In Video, Hungarian PMO Chief Claims “Migrants” are Pushing “White Christians” Out of Vienna, Making the City “Dirtier” and “Poorer”

He will be replaced by Gergely Gulyás, who is set to take over two of Lázár’s roles: as head of the PMO, and as the leader of the weekly press conference that the Orbán government has titled “kormányinfo” (government information). This would represent yet another major promotion for the 36-year-old Gulyás, who only took over as parliamentary group leader last October, replacing Lajos Kósa.

Kósa himself, who was only recently made Minister-without-portfolio, recently announced that he will not be working as a minister in the next government. His fall from grace comes in the wake of a slightly confusing scandal in which the Fidesz politician was, according to documents, entrusted by someone with 4.35 billion euros, allegedly for the purpose of investing this amount in Hungarian state bonds.

Gulyás parliamentary leadership position is apparently going to be taken over by Máté Kocsis, also 36, who was been Mayor of Budapest’s 8th district since 2009.

Another high-profile departure will be that of Human Resources Minister Zoltán Balog, a Calvinist minister-turned-politician who has reportedly been a close friend of Viktor Orbán for nearly 30 years. He has led his mega-ministry, which is in charge of portfolios including family policy, education, sport, healthcare and social issues, since 2012.

In an interview with the pro-govt news portal Origo, the Christian Democrat politician said he will instead head the Fidesz-funded Foundation for a Civic Hungary, which is perhaps best known for hosting the annual Fidesz picnic at Kötcse, on a full-time basis.

In the interview published late on Monday, Balog said he had discussed the post-election future in two long conversations with the prime minister, and Viktor Orbán told him that Emmi would keep its structure and composition. He said

I suggested some changes which he did not accept. He offered me a choice: either do the job in its current form or I could have a different job. I have been involved in the ministry’s work for the last six years, and what I know is that I don’t want to continue in this way.

Zoltán Balog to Quit Human Resources Ministry

Reportedly, Balog’s slot will be filled by Miklós Kásler, a doctor who currently is the head of the National Oncological Institute, and who recently made headlines through his work identifying what his team argues is the DNA of Hungary’s ruling Árpád dynasty. Kásler is also known for his controversial, ultra-conservative views. At a recent event, the 68-year-old doctor was recorded arguing that he doesn’t believe in the “speculations” of the Big Bang Theory, and that

70-80% of fatal diseases could be prevented by following the 10 commandments.

Sandor Fazekas, the minister of agriculture, said in an interview to the Wednesday edition of daily Magyar Idők that he had decided not to stay on as head of the ministry in the next government cycle.

Fazekas also told the paper that over the next four years he will be involved with the work of ruling Fidesz’s parliamentary group.

The Farm Ministry is supposedly going to be taken over by Fidesz MP István Nagy, who currently serves as State Secretary for Agriculture.

According to the Fidesz-linked magazine Figyelő (which made international headlines a few weeks ago for publishing a list of professors, journalists, and human rights activists that it claimed were “mercenaries” of Hungarian-American billionaire George Soros), Fidesz MP István Simicskó will relinquish his role as Minister of Defense, and will be replaced by General Tibor Benkő, Chief of the General Staff of the Hungarian Armed Forces.

Working “to grow the prestige of the Hungarian Defense Force”: Origo Interview with Defense Minister István Simicskó

In addition, as has been expected, Miklós Seszták, the current Minister of National Development, is set to lose his post in the next government. His post fill be filled by Andrea Bártfai-Mager, who is currently serving as Government Commissioner for Postal and National Financial Services.

And while Justice Minister László Trócsányi is expected to remain for the next 2 years, this is expected to be only a temporary position, as Trócsányi is reportedly going to be nominated as Hungary’s European Commissioner, to replace current Commissioner Tibor Navracsics, the Fidesz politician who has grown increasingly critical of the Orbán government’s widely-circulated theories surrounding a supposed “Soros plan” to transplant migrants into the EU.

Other ministers expected to stay in their posts include Deputy PM Zsolt Semjén, Mihály Varga as Minister of National Economy, Interior Minister Sándor Pintér, Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó, and Antal Rogán, Head of the Cabinet Office.

 

Via MTI, index.hu, magyaridok.hu, origo.hu, valasz.hu, figyelo.hu, and 444.hu