Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has used the flooding along the Danube River to highlight the theme of national cooperation (nemzeti összefogás), one of the foundations of his government’s legitimacy. During a week of nearly ceaseless direct participation in flood-response operations, Orbán has frequently praised the great degree of national cooperation he has witnessed over that period, telling the Hungarian News Agency MTI on June 6 that “National cooperation has been working perfectly so far.” Many government ministers and other officials in his administration have made similar statements. The government even designated the telephone number established for making donations to the organizations participating in flood defense and cleanup the National Cooperation Line (Nemzeti Összefogás Vonala).
There is, naturally, nothing inherently wrong with the notion of cooperation, particularly in times of crisis. However, one must understand the connotations of this term within the Hungarian political context. After coming to power in May 2010, Prime Minister Orbán referred to his cabinet as the “Government of National Cooperation” (Nemzeti Együttműködés Kormánya), the primary mission of which was to implement the “System of National Cooperation” (Nemzeti Együttműködés Rendszere) aimed at rectifying the inequalities and injustices of post-communist Hungarian society. His government enshrined the precepts of this system in the Declaration of National Cooperation (Nemzeti Együttműködés Nyilatkozata), which it stipulated be displayed in all central state-administration and military offices in Hungary.
Though the Fidesz–Christian Democratic People’s Party (KDNP) alliance did win an overwhelming two-thirds majority in the National Assembly, it did so on just 52.73 percent of the popular vote. Thus nearly 48 percent of those who cast votes in the 2010 general election did not support Fidesz-KDNP and opinion polls suggest that the Orbán government, though still relatively popular, has lost the backing of a good number of those who voted for the ruling party in the last elections. For them, Orbán’s notion of National Cooperation may well seem more like slogan aimed at increasing the popularity of his government and its program rather than an earnest call for all citizens of the country to work together for the collective good.