Hungary News Politics & International

Old guard and new faces… who’s who in Orbán’s new cabinet?

Hungary’s new government includes a returning Europhile, a remaining Russophile, and a new Sinophile alongside some familiar faces.

The old guard

Prime Minister – Viktor Orbán: Perhaps not even Viktor Orbán himself thought that he would get a ⅔ majority for the 4th time in a row, yet he won his greatest ever mandate in April. He already surpassed Kálmán Tisza in becoming Hungary’s longest-serving prime minister in 2020 and now he has extended his time in office at least until 2026. Orbán occasionally alludes to the idea that he wishes to stay in power until 2030. As things stand, there seems to be nothing to stop him from this. Epoch

Deputy Prime Minister – Zsolt Semjén: Semjén’s position is more symbolic than practical. His party, KDNP only exists in name and does not have the leverage of ordinary coalition parties. KDNP is (or used to be) considered to be the political arm of the Hungarian catholic church. Hence Semjén’s deputy prime ministership, just like in other cycles, is a symbolic move from Orbán to signal his commitment to Christianity. Previous anti-LGBT legislation tended to be formally initiated by Semjén. He enjoys going on hunting trips from time to time. Predator

Chief of Staff – Antal Rogán: 9 730 526 people live in Hungary. 9 730 525 of them dislike Antal Rogán. Luckily for him, the one person who doesn’t is Viktor Orbán. The former tabloid poster boy used to be one of the most popular Fidesz politicians in the 2000s. However several public scandals (such as when he attended a friend’s wedding in a helicopter), resulted in the government having to hide him, even from Fidesz voters. He still enjoys the favour of Orbán though, mostly because he has been in charge of Fidesz’s communications, which keep on delivering the results. He is often referred to as Hungary’s “propaganda minister” in the press. His portfolio now also includes the supervision of certain domestic intelligence services, which does not bode well for those who were worried about mass surveillance in light of the Pegasus scandal. GDPR Concerns

Minister of Interior – Sándor Pintér: Out of the 9 730 525 Rogán-haters in Hungary, Pintér is said to be among the more radical ones. As Rogán snatched some of his departments, love is unlikely to kindle between the two anytime soon. Pintér can console himself with the unorthodox decision to designate the Education and Health departments under the Ministry of Interior. During their campaign, the Opposition vowed to introduce a Finnish-style education system. With Pintér being in ultimate charge of education, Hungarians might get a Prussian one instead. Pintér is also the only politician to have served all the way through every Orbán government. This is his fifth cycle overall. Veteran

Minister of Finance – Mihály Varga: One of the remaining Fidesz founders in the party, Varga has been in charge of the Hungarian economy since 2013. Varga is considered to be a fiscal conservative so he’ll have to balance the budget after record spending during Covid, Orbán’s pre-election spending spree, an ongoing neighbouring war, and soaring energy prices. Good luck!

Minister of Trade and Foreign Affairs – Péter Szijjártó: After the war in Ukraine broke out, there was widespread speculation regarding Szijjártó’s future. Szijjártó is said to be an enthusiastic supporter of Hungary’s Eastern Opening foreign policy and getting a medal of friendship from Sergey Lavrov the same month as Russia invaded Ukraine is not good optics for anyone, let alone a country’s foreign minister. Some sources in the foreign ministry even briefed that Szijjártó would have to be sacrificed in Orbán’s next cabinet, with rumours suggesting that Fidesz-founder and arch-Atlanticist and head of the Hungarian Parliament’s Foreign Policy Committee Zsolt Németh would get a promotion. Both Németh and Szijjártó are staying put in the end, however the latter’s responsibilities are somewhat chopped back. Orbán must know full well that it will be impossible to restore the trust of Hungary’s allies with Szijjártó, and there are already signs that Katalin Novák and Tibor Navracsics will be featured more prominently in foreign policy missions in the West while Szijjártó tours around former Soviet countries in the hope of salvaging some trade deals. To Russia, With Love

Minister of Justice – Judit Varga: Many assumed that Varga’s position would be under threat after both the Pegasus surveillance scandal and Pál Völner’s corruption scandal happened under her watch. Varga will remain in her position as one of Orbán’s key warriors in his fight with Brussels over Rule of Law concerns. As Katalin Novák moved to Sándor Palace to take up her new position as Hungary’s president, Varga is also the only woman in the cabinet. Girlboss

Minister of the Prime Minister’s Office – Gergely Gulyás: Gulyás took over from Lázár in 2018 as the Fidesz politician with a human face, holding regular press briefings and press conferences. He’s had a few memorable quips in the past few years and clearly enjoys being in the firing line, which he’ll have the opportunity to continue. Stand-up

Minister of Technology and Industry – László Palkovics: In his previous brief, Palkovics oversaw the privatisation of Hungarian universities and the universally unpopular (and possibly shelved) project to bring Fudan University to Hungary. At one point in the last political cycle, it seemed Palkovics would be on his way out of government, but he seems to have found himself back in Orbán’s favour. The Quiet Man

Minister of Agrarian Affairs – István Nagy: The Hungarian right has historically had strong ties with Hungary’s agrarian communities, therefore right-wing governments always have to pay particular attention to them. Orbán must be satisfied with Nagy’s work between 2018 and 2022 as he is set to continue in his role. At first glance, Nagy comes across as a bland man. However, he speaks Esperanto and has a very active Instagram page. On 1 May, he posted a picture of himself drawn in 1950s style. Influencer

Comeback kings

Minister of Regional Development and Allocation of EU Funds – Tibor Navracsics: A one-time foreign minister and one of the last remains of Fidesz’s liberal wing alongside Hegyvidék mayor Zoltán Pokorni, Navracsics served as Hungary’s EU Commissioner in the 2014-2019 cycle. A proud europhile conservative, there was a period when Navracsics seemed to distance himself from the new Fidesz. After the party left the EPP, he even openly considered leaving the party altogether. As recently as March, he claimed he only 63.75% agrees with Fidesz’s politics. Yet, he ran as Fidesz’s candidate in Ajka, where he comfortably beat Jobbik’s Lajos Rig. Rumours suggest that Orbán intends to send him West and Szijjártó East when representing Hungarian foreign policy interests. Alongside Hungary’s new president, Katalin Novák, it could be Navracsics who tries to restore the trust of Hungary’s Western allies in the Orbán regime. For the lovers of political drama, Navracsics’s relationship with Péter Szijjártó will be worth keeping an eye on. Western Opening?

Minister of Construction and Investment – János Lázár: The good news for János Lázár is that he has everything it takes to be Prime Minister: the charm, the brains, and the popularity (surprisingly even amongst some non-Fidesz voters). The bad news for János Lázár is that everyone knows he wants to be Prime Minister, even Viktor Orbán. Orbán rewarded Lázár’s ambitions with a four-year exile in Hungary’s great plains in the last political cycle, where the former Minister of the Office of Prime Minister dedicated his time to horse-breeding. Now he’s back in the cabinet, though in a department whose responsibilities are somewhat unclear. It will definitely involve a lot of public funds, though. Money, money, money

New faces

Minister of Defence – Kristóf Szalay-Bobrovniczky: Hungary’s ambassador to the UK between 2016 and 2020, he is a proud member of the noble Bobrovniczky family, with historic ties to the Hungarian military. As Orbán signalled that beefing up the Hungarian army will be one of his top priorities in the next four years, Szalay-Bobrovniczky is set to have an important role in the government. The more problematic side of Szalay-Bobrovniczky’s appointment is that he has a joint venture with Russian state-owned Transmasholding. He is also a big fan of martial arts, most notably kendo. His wife, Alexandra Szalay-Bobrovniczky has been the government’s spokesperson and a government commissioner in charge of communication since 2020. She once posted a TikTok video of herself walking around Hungary’s border fence with a Kazakhstani rap song titled ‘I’m gonna fuck’ playing in the background. She is also rumoured to be getting a promotion. Power Couple

Minister of Economic development – Márton Nagy: The former banker has been slowly making his way up in Fidesz. He started off at the National Bank and became Orbán’s chief advisor in economic matters. According to Telex, his colleagues describe him as an ambitious man who tends to get promoted by having his bosses fired. He’ll likely have a difficult job doing that to Orbán, though. Nagy also used to be the president of the Budapest Stock Exchange. The Big Short

Minister of Culture and Innovation – János Csák: Another former Hungarian ambassador in London, Csák is new to frontline politics but has plenty of experience in diplomacy and business. Csák moves comfortably in both the Western and the Eastern world, which fits right into Orbán’s “swing” politics. He studied in the US and helped in having Magyar Telekom listed on the New York Stock exchange. On the other hand, he is a member of the board of directors at the Bank of China CEE, a bank ultimately majority-owned by the Chinese state, which might raise some eyebrows regarding conflict of interest issues. Csák also wrote a long essay about China for the pro-government outlet, Mandiner in 2021 where he consciously kept referring to the “Uyghur issue” without mentioning the words labour camps or genocide. As higher education will be under Csák’s watch, it is possible that Orbán will give bringing Fudan University to Hungary another shot. Eastern Opening Reloaded

By Ábel Bede

Ábel Bede was born in Budapest and has two degrees in History from Durham University. He specialised in Central Europan history and has been contributing to Kafkadesk since 2019. Feel free to check out more of his articles right here!

Coordinated by Ábel Bede, Kafkadesk's Budapest office is made up of a growing team of freelance journalists, editors and fact-checkers passionate about Hungarian affairs and dedicated to bringing you all the latest news, events and insights from Hungary.