Category Archives: Hungary

The Two Faces of Viktor Orbán

Each October 23rd, Hungarians commemorate and celebrate the heroes of 1956 who led  the country’s revolt against communist rule and Soviet influence. Unfortunately, this year’s anniversary celebration wasn’t the dignified event worth of the memory of the people who gave their lives for liberty. The freedom fighters of yesteryear wanted a free and independent press. Yet, a few days before the anniversary, the largest nationwide independent daily newspaper, Népszabadság, suspended operations. The nationalist Hungarian government, which venerates the revolt of 1956, ironically desecrates the memory of its heroes by trampling on freedom speech.

The publisher claims it shut down Népszabadság because of declining sales. However, the manner it was done raised suspicions that the Hungarian government was involved since the paper uncovered corruption scandals involving the ruling party, Fidesz. It is not unheard of in Hungary for journalist to get fired for unearthing sensitive information on Fidesz. This monopolization of the media is in line with Viktor Orbán’s vision of an illiberal state, which he claimed he wants to build, modelled upon Russia.

Recently, the newspaper’s owner, Heinrich Pecina, sold Népszabadság to a company affiliated with Orbán’s close friend, Lőrinc Mészáros – a former gasfitter who became  a billionaire under shady circumstances during Orbán’s regime. Yet, Orbán has the audacity to stand in front of a crowd of his ardent followers on at the anniversary celebration of 56 and praise heroes who fought against everything Orbán is standing for. Despite the fact that Fidesz claims to be an anti-communist, conservative party, they are nationalizingprivate assets, tamper with civic liberties, and have only weakened the system of check and balances.

As another blow to freedom of speech in Hungary, the security guards hired by the government for the rally didn’t let certain opposition politicians enter the public celebration. Furthermore, anyone who brought a whistle was barred from entry lest they dare make a sound while the Great Leader was speaking. An independent member of the parliament, Zoltán Kész, wasn’t let into the square while walking with his son hours before the celebration.

Continue reading at Reaction.

Hungarians must unite to save their democracy

This op-ed was authored by Máté Hajba and Patrick Hannaford.

Late February, on an otherwise quiet Tuesday morning, a group of thugs occupied the Hungarian National Election Office. They were there to stop members of an opposition party submitting their referendum proposal.

Such congregations are never a good sign in Hungary. They highlight the growing influence of the far-right, which openly venerates the Nazi regimes of world war II.

But these thugs weren’t connected to the neo-fascist Jobbik party, they were acting on behalf of the governing Fidesz party, which is increasingly taking an authoritarian approach.

This is a serious threat to Hungarian democracy, and if the Hungarian people don’t unite against it, their democracy may be gone for good.

It’s well known that Fidesz opposes western style democracy, defined by rule of law, checks and balances, and civil rights. In 2014, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán openly declared his plan to turn Hungary into an “illiberal democracy”, based on Russia, Turkey, and China – a statement that lead Senator John McCain to describe Prime Minister Orbán as a “neo-fascist dictator”.

Orbán and Fidesz have been strenuously implementing this plan since taking office in 2010. They have tampered with election laws, tailoring the process and gerrymandering constituencies to retain their two-thirds majority in 2014. They have centralized power throughout society, creating new government bureaucracies and nationalizing private industries. Worst of all, they have curtailed the powers of the constitutional court, so that nothing can challenge the government’s frenzy.

This approach is already causing problems.

Thousands of students and teachers are protesting the new national curriculum, which has placed schools under the control of a centralized government agency, eliminating their autonomy and leaving them without basic supplies of pens and paper. The country’s healthcare system is crumbling; hospitals are in disrepair, and patients are more likely to die from an infection in hospital, than in a car crash. And corruption has become so ingrained that even the EU’s anti-corruption funding was embezzled.

Fidesz is still the most popular party, but their proposed laws are increasingly meeting resistance. Plans to tax the internet, for example, were abandoned after tens of thousands took the the streets in protest.

But this resistance hasn’t altered their approach. The government has continued to clamp down on private industry, proposing to ban Uber, and forcing shops to close on Sundays.

It was this Sunday trading issue that caused the latest thuggish tactics.

Continue reading at CapX.

Is Orbán’s dream of Putinesque Hungary a step closer to reality?

Brexit has shaken Europe. While the European Union is still recovering from this blow, yet another referendum threatens its integrity. This time, it has nothing to do with free markets or people wanting more autonomy from an increasingly powerful EU. Rather, it is a project of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán to build a Putinesque, illiberal Hungary.

As a populist measure, the Hungarian government will hold a referendum on October 2nd asking:

“Do you want the European Union to mandate, without the consent of the National Assembly, the obligatory settling of non-Hungarian nationals into Hungary?”

In Hungary, referenda can only be held on issues which fall under the jurisdiction of the parliament. As the question of migrant quotas falls under EU law, which supersedes national law, the outcome cannot have any legal effect. The courts, however, gave the question the green light after being challenged. Thus, if the referendum goes through, the government can claim that the people do not want the EU to override decisions made on a national level, and thus Hungary should leave the EU.

Using taxpayers’ money, the Hungarian government is spreading lies about immigrants; for instance, it has claimed that there are already “no-go zones” in major European cities where authorities dare not go because there is a high concentration of immigrants. The fact that this is not true does not phase Orbán. For him, the referendum serves as a survey to measure whether Hungarians like the EU more than they hate immigrants. Thus, it’s irrelevant that the referendum can have no legal consequences.

Despite the xenophobic propaganda, the government is planning to bring in tens of thousands of non-EU citizens on work visas to compensate for hundreds of thousands of Hungarians who have emigrated.

Continue reading at CAPX.