On September 24, 2014, Péter Szijjártó took his oath of office as the Orbán government’s new minister of external economy and foreign affairs at the Hungarian Parliament Building in Budapest.
A few hours later, the opposition television station RTL Klub (see The Big Gun Swings into Action) broadcast a report revealing that in May the newly inducted 36-year-old foreign minister had purchased a house in the Budapest suburb of Dunakeszi for 167 million forints.
The amount of money Szijjártó paid for the house is 710 times the average gross monthly wage of 235,000 forints in Hungary. This means that average Hungarians would have to save their entire monthly pay for a period of nearly 60 years in order buy a house of the same value (source in Hungarian).
Szijjártó told RTL Klub that he had paid for the house using 80 million forints in personal savings, 67 millions forints from his parents—just over half of which he would repay—as well as 20 million from his wife and his wife’s parents (source A and B in Hungarian).
Ministry of External Economy and Foreign Affairs Press Director Judit Fülöp reported that the foreign minister’s new house had total floor area of 391 square meters.
On September 26, RTL Klub reported that Szijjártó, who has never held employment unconnected to Fidesz, had submitted revised figures regarding the source of payment for the house, decreasing the amount he had paid by 12 million forints and increasing the amount he had received in loans from his parents by the same amount (source A and B in Hungarian).
On September 29, RTL KLUB reported information from the Dunakeszi town clerk which showed that, including the five-car underground garage and indoor swimming pool, the official total floor area of Szijjártó’s house was 708 square meters rather than the previously stated 391 square meters (source in Hungarian).
On September 30, Szijjártó told the opposition website 444.hu during a video interview that he was not ashamed of the luxurious new house, because his parents (1) had contributed a major portion of the money needed to purchase it (source in Hungarian, from 00:41).
I am not really willing to feel ashamed of myself because my parents created the material circumstances through a lifetime of strenuous work that guarantee a secure material background for us, the children, that is, their children and their grandchildren as well. I am not willing to be ashamed of this, I am proud, I am proud of my parents, who worked for an entire lifetime so that there would be a secure material background for us, their children, and for their grandchildren and I made it clear from the start that very broad family cooperation was necessary so that we could buy this house after looking for three years and that the parents helped significantly, so I have nothing to hide or be ashamed of.
This is the same Péter Szijjártó who, as Fidesz spokesman when the party was in opposition from 2006 to 2010, led attacks on the “luxury left-wing” [luxusbaloldal] government of Hungarian Socialist Party Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány. In March 2006, Szijjártó issued the following communiqué (source in Hungarian):
People have had enough of luxury government. Fidesz believes that there is a need for a plebian government that keeps puritan principles in mind in order to make important decisions for people and that instead of limousine socialists, responsible decision-makers are needed in the parliament and in the government as well.
Szijjártó’s passage from opposition-party spokesman assailing the privileges of the Hungarian Socialist Party leadership to Fidesz plenipotentiary who enjoys these very same privileges himself reflects the progression of the Orbán administration along the same path from champion of the people to oppressor of the people that Hungary’s previous authoritarian régime traveled over the four decades ending in 1989. This path is composed of the following four stages:
Stage 1: opposition attacks the privileges of the ruling power as a means of gaining the popular support necessary to depose it and assume power itself.
Stage 2: the new ruling power gradually acquires privileges of its own, though does not initially display them to the public, and continues to solidify its own legitimacy through attacks on the privileges of the former ruling power.
Stage 3: the new ruling power no longer hides it own privileges, though attempts to justify them as the product of its own honorable and beneficial principles (in Szijjártó’s case, family values and hard work).
Stage 4: the new ruling power no longer hides nor attempts to justify its own privileges, which have come to be regarded as an implicit right of those who are affiliated with it.
The Orbán administration has just entered stage 3. Orange Files expects it to make the transition into stage 4 of this process after Prime Minister Orbán’s anticipated jump to the office of the presidency à la Putin in the year 2017.
1-The father of the Orbán government’s new minister of external economy and foreign affairs, István Szijjártó, was the primary owner of a profitable company based in the city of Győr (northwest Hungary, pop. 129,000) that installs railway track. In 2011, he sold his share in this company and started an engineering firm that had revenue of 240 million forints in 2012 (source in Hungarian).
See real-estate website ingatlan.com photographs of Szijjártó’s house.