For too long has the European Union tolerated the formation of a self-proclaimed “illiberal democracy” in its midst. A recent European Court of Justice ruling underscores that Hungary not only breaches the rule of law, but violates the very rights and values on which the EU is founded.
The court ruled earlier this month that restrictions imposed on foreign universities — which forced the George Soros-funded Central European University to relocate from Budapest to Austria — were “incompatible” with the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights.
Gwendoline Delbos-Corfield, a French member of the European Parliament and its rapporteur on the situation in Hungary, commented that the ruling “should send a warning to Viktor Orbán: that it’s time to step back from the brink of autocracy and reverse the Hungarian government’s undemocratic path.”
Orbán, prime minister since 2010, has come a long way. He started his political career as a liberal anticommunist and ended up the most right-wing, authoritarian government leader in the EU.
If the rest of the bloc is to rein him in, it must first understand how he has been able to gain, and keep, his power.
I try to avoid Nazi-era comparisons, since they’re seldom appropriate, but Viktor Orbán isn’t making it easy. The only thing that could make his power grab in Hungary more like the Enabling Act of 1933 is if, like the Reichstag fire, COVID-19 really had been manufactured (in a Chinese lab funded by George Soros, if we are to believe Russia’s disinformation).
Using the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse, Orbán has dissolved parliament and postponed all elections — indefinitely.
Michael Meyer-Resende of Democracy Reporting International argues for Carnegie Europe that applying the term “illiberal democracy” or “majoritarianism” to the politics of Hungary and Poland is a misnomer. The ruling parties there are not undermining democracy — by taking control of the (state) media, stacking the courts and rewriting election laws — for the sake of the majority, but rather to maintain their own power. Read more “Don’t Call Them Illiberal Democrats”
Hungary’s Viktor Orbán is likely to win reelection on Sunday. The Washington Post has a good story about the rebellion the EU faces in Central Europe. For more on the political trends Orbán embodies, read:
Jan-Werner Müller: We are doing Orbán a great favor by accepting him as any kind of democrat. It is democracy itself — and not just liberalism — that is under attack in his country.
Tom Nuttall: Orbán’s depiction of himself as an illiberal democrat is largely window-dressing. Were his pollsters to discover that voters were no longer animated by immigration, he would manufacture a different foe. Orbán’s ideologues assemble theoretical scaffolding to justify the channelling of state resources to favored businessmen under the rubric of “economic patriotism”. The EU harbors not an illiberal democracy, but a semi-autocratic kleptocracy in which loyalty offers the quickest route to riches.
Dani Rodrik: Liberal democracy is being undermined by a tendency to emphasize “liberal” at the expense of “democracy.” The European Union represents the apogee of this tendency: the delegation of policy to technocratic bodies.
Philip Stephens: The West misread the collapse of Soviet communism. It was not, after all, the end of history. Happy assumptions about the permanent hegemony of laissez-faire capitalism and the historical inevitability of liberal democracy were rooted in a hubris that invited nemesis. For all that, the end of the Cold War did produce a big idea. Now, as we are daily reminded by Donald Trump’s Twitter feed, it is being swapped for a very bad idea. Read more “Orbán’s Rebellion, Liberal Democracy and Trump’s War in Syria”
The European Parliament has opened an investigation into the state of democracy and rule of law in Hungary, which is ruled by the self-described illiberal democrat Viktor Orbán.
The resolution, introduced by liberal and left-wing groups, passed on Wednesday with the support of 68 members of the conservative European People’s Party, to which Orbán’s Fidesz belongs.
The mainstream right has long shielded Budapest from scrutiny, despite Orbán’s years of attacks on the courts, the central bank and the media, the removal of checks on his parliamentary majority and his pursuing of economic and migration policies that defy the European mainstream. Read more “Recalcitrant Hungary and Poland Exhaust Europe’s Patience”
Donald Trump’s unexpected presidential election in the United States has delighted his ideological counterparts in Europe. Brexiteers in the United Kingdom think he will give them a better deal than Hillary Clinton. Populists in France and the Netherlands have responded to Trump’s victory with glee. So have ultraconservatives in Central Europe.
A bit of armchair psychology is required to answer that question. Based on the way way he conducts himself and the many profiles I’ve read about the man, I think it’s safe to say that a powerful motivator was his desire to prove himself. Read more “The Trouble with Electing an Outsider”
Sometimes in politics everything is exactly what it looks like.
This was the case when the prime minister of Hungary, Viktor Orbán, visited Moscow last week, extended a gas contract with Russia and told the Russian president that the period when the EU automatically extended sanctions against Russia was “behind us.”
The moment of honesty came when Vladimir Putin and Viktor Orbán got to compliment each other on their Syria and refugee-related policies. “We value greatly the efforts made to resolve this problem [of Middle Eastern refugees],” said Orbán, adding, “We wish you great success in your international initiatives.” Putin then said, “Our people has sympathy for the position taken by the Hungarian government” on the refugee crisis.
And yes, in a perverse way, the two policies do indeed work very well together — that is, to suit the needs of the two leaders: Russia’s intervention in Syria aggravated the war and the refugee crisis. Which, in turn, strengthened Orbán’s position in Hungary and in Europe. Which, in turn, helped far-right parties and Putin allies and weakened the EU.
This unspoken but existing alliance, ultimately, against the EU and against the solution of a refugee crisis that benefits them both, was behind the chumminess that the Hungarian prime minister and the Russian president showed in Moscow.
The Russian pro-government press could hardly hide its joy over the visit. Izvestia wrote about a meeting of “not only partners, but friends on principles,” noting that Orbán was the first foreign leader whom Putin met in the new working building at his Novo-Ogaryovo residence. But calling Orbán and Putin friends is an exaggeration. Just as Orbán himself declared last year, Putin “is not a man who has a known personality,” which largely rules out making friends with fellow leaders. Even on principles. Read more “Comrades in Arms”
Russian president Vladimir Putin visited Budapest on Tuesday. The visit was largely devoid of substance but made clear the Russian leader was not as isolated in Europe as most Western governments would have liked.
Hungary’s nationalist prime minister, Viktor Orbán, said his ambitions for the summit with Putin were modest. He assured European ambassadors that he would not try to mediate between Russia and the West over the standoff in Ukraine where the former supports a separatist uprising against the Western-backed administration in Kiev.