Hungary 2019 –

Written by  //  September 17, 2022  //  Europe & EU  //  2 Comments

Broken City: Budapest After World War II
By Amos Chapple, Archival Photos By Fortepan
Click or tap on the images to reveal the same scene in 2020.
(Radio Free Europe) Seventy-five years after the end of World War II in Europe, photographs capture the devastation wrought on the Hungarian capital, Budapest, during one of Europe’s most overlooked battles.
Hungary was allied with Nazi Germany during World War II and tens of thousands of its soldiers fought alongside Nazi troops in Soviet territory, including during the battle for Stalingrad — a major turning point in the war. For seven weeks at the end of 1944 and beginning of 1945, Soviet and Romanian troops encircled and then fought their way into Nazi-held Budapest, assisted by U.S. airpower.

Hungary faces reckoning with EU that could cost it billions
Orban is facing a reckoning with the EU, which appears set to impose financial penalties on his government over corruption concerns and alleged rule-of-law violations that could cost Budapest billions and cripple its already ailing economy.
The EU’s executive arm, the European Commission, has for nearly a decade accused Orban of dismantling democratic institutions, taking control of the media and infringing on minority rights. Orban, who has been in office since 2010, denies the accusations.
The longstanding conflict could culminate Sunday when the commission is expected to announce a funding cut for Hungary, one of the 27-nation EU’s largest net beneficiaries, if the country does not change course.

9-15 September
The E.U. must punish Viktor Orban, Hungary’s authoritarian leader
By the Editorial Board
(WaPo) A swath of American conservatives have lionized Viktor Orban, but on Thursday, Europe’s elected parliament shined a clarifying light on the Hungarian tyrant, voting overwhelmingly to denounce the “hybrid regime of electoral autocracy” he has built through bigotry, corruption and contempt for democratic norms. That condemnation was too long in the coming and is unlikely to faze Mr. Orban. But the European Union’s executive arm has a better way to get his attention: cutting off Hungary from the billions of dollars in aid on which his regime depends. It is now preparing to do just that. Better late than never.
For a second-rate strongman, Mr. Orban, prime minister of a landlocked country with a population on par with that of Honduras, has punched way above his weight. Though Hungary is a member of the E.U. as well as NATO, he has stood apart as a stalwart ally of Vladimir Putin, the Russian dictator. And when he appeared last month before the Conservative Political Action Conference in Texas, he received a rousing welcome despite having warned days earlier that immigration threatened to remake Hungary into a “mixed-race” country — a remark that prompted the resignation of one of his top aides, who said correctly that it evoked Nazi dogma.
MEPs: Hungary can no longer be considered a full democracy
The situation has deteriorated such that Hungary has become an “electoral autocracy”
(European parliament news) EU inaction exacerbated the backslide; recovery funds should be withheld until the country complies with EU recommendations and court rulings
Lack of progress in the Article 7 process would amount to a rule of law breach by the Council
Parliament condemns the “deliberate and systematic efforts of the Hungarian government” to undermine European values and demands results in the Article 7 process.
The lack of decisive EU action has contributed to the emergence of a “hybrid regime of electoral autocracy”, i.e. a constitutional system in which elections occur, but respect for democratic norms and standards is absent, MEPs say.

3 September
Hungary’s Orbán travels to Moscow for Gorbachev’s funeral
“Orbán travels to Moscow this morning to pay his respects to the late Mikhail Gorbachev,” government spokesperson Zoltán Kovács said on Twitter on Saturday. Orbán’s delegation includes MEP Tamás Deutsch, he said.
Orbán is not scheduled to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin, a spokesperson for the Kremlin said, according to reports.

1 September
Hungary breeds unquiet on Ukraine’s western front
As Kyiv battles the Kremlin, Budapest undermines support for Ukraine
(Politico Eu) The Western alliance is pledging to support Ukraine till the bitter end. Hungary is openly calling on Kyiv to give up.
Across Europe, capitals are funneling Ukraine weapons to fuel a critical counteroffensive. And they’re broadly insisting Ukraine will decide when it is time to start peace negotiations.
Not Hungary.
While Budapest has signed off EU sanctions, it first insisted some of them be watered down. And even as fighting raged in eastern Ukraine this summer, Hungarian officials traveled to Moscow to negotiate a deal for extra gas supplies.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán himself is advocating for a change of course in Ukraine. The West’s focus, he said in a speech in July, “should not be on winning the war, but on negotiating peace and making a good peace offer.”

4 August
The Right’s Rising Authoritarian Ally
In Dallas, Viktor Orbán endorses “the culture war.”
By Elaine Godfrey
(The Atlantic) Today [August 4] in Dallas, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán gave a speech at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference. You heard that correctly! The leader of an Indiana-sized European country traveled 5,000 miles to speak at an American political gathering best known for its fringe characters and own-the-libs merchandise.
…you should know who Orbán is, and you should know why some on the American right admire him. Orbán has become a kind of soft autocrat in Hungary. He’s not known for killing or threatening his political opponents; instead, he simply changes the rules to cement his power.
A few things to know about Orbán’s leadership:
He’s parlayed his election victories into constitutional changes that make it harder for his electoral opponents to win. Elections are free, in a sense, but they are not fair, experts say.
He’s cracked down on the Hungarian media. Orbán and his allies now own many of the papers in the country, and few independent outlets survive. This means less airtime for his opponents and less criticism of him.
He’s a socially conservative Christian nationalist. He’s staunchly anti-immigration, and in a recent speech, he said that he wanted to keep Hungary from becoming a “mixed-race” country.

24-29 July
Orbán’s culture wars divert, disturb — and evade serious repercussions
The Hungarian prime minister is sparking global outrage with his latest broadside against immigration, but remains relatively secure politically and needed internationally.
Viktor Orbán is striding back into the global culture wars — deflecting from economic woes at home and aware the EU is unlikely to challenge his rhetoric.
Abroad, Orbán is also fostering ties to conservative and far-right figures, painting himself as a lonely figure standing athwart the West’s “woke movement.” Next week, he will even speak on the same bill as former U.S. President Donald Trump at a Texas stop of the MAGA-friendly roadshow, the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).
Orban’s bigotry has repelled his best friends. Why do conservatives still salute him?
Doug Saunders
(Globe & Mail) If you are a North American conservative looking for inspirational role models, you have a great range of European figures to choose from. … But surely you wouldn’t want to associate yourself with a European who gives speeches in which he denounces “race-mixing,” argues that religiously and culturally diverse countries are “not real nations” or that immigration of religious minorities is “population replacement” imposed by an “army” of reviled Jewish figures, or that gay rights are a threat to “our future” and that the defence of Ukraine is a mistake that should be stopped and Mr. Putin’s “security demands” met.
… In Canada, Mr. Orban received an outright statement of congratulations for his 2018 election victory from former prime minister Stephen Harper who, as head of the International Democrat Union (an international organization of right-wing parties), shocked some members by keeping Mr. Orban’s party on board as it shifted to the intolerant far right. Mr. Harper doubled down the next year, paying a warm-hearted long-weekend public visit to Mr. Orban in Budapest. Orban associate (and current Hungarian President) Katalin Novak made a statement welcoming Mr. Harper (who was joined by film producer Robert Lantos) to “our Christian country.”
Hungary’s Viktor Orbán faces growing backlash over ‘race mixing’ comments
Jewish groups and other politicians slam remarks by far-right leader as ‘unacceptable.’
(Politico Eu) In his speech, Orbán also criticized Western countries’ military support for Ukraine against Russia. He called for a renewed focus on peace talks between Kyiv and Moscow instead of sanctioning Russia and giving weapons to Ukraine.
The Hungarian government has developed a close relationship with the Kremlin over the past decade, and while Budapest has signed off on successive packages of EU sanctions against Moscow since the war started, Hungary also blocked a sixth package of penalties for weeks in a bid to water down the measures.
Viktor Orbán sparks outrage with attack on ‘race mixing’ in Europe
(The Guardian) Hungary’s far-right prime minister, Viktor Orbán, has lashed out against the “mixing” of European and non-European races, in a speech that immediately drew outrage from opposition parties and European politicians.
“We [Hungarians] are not a mixed race … and we do not want to become a mixed race,” said Orbán on Saturday. He added that countries where European and non-Europeans mingle were “no longer nations”.
Orbán has been making similar claims for years, but these comments were couched in stark far-right terms

4 July
Does Hungary Offer a Glimpse of Our Authoritarian Future?
American conservatives recently hosted their flagship conference in Hungary, a country that experts call an autocracy. Its leader, Viktor Orbán, provides a potential model of what a Trump after Trump might look like.
By Andrew Marantz
(The New Yorker, July 4 issue) … Experts have described Orbán as a new-school despot, a soft autocrat, an anocrat, and a reactionary populist. Kim Lane Scheppele, a professor of international affairs at Princeton, has referred to him as “the ultimate twenty-first-century dictator.” Some prominent American conservatives want nothing to do with him; but more have taken his side, pointing to Hungary as a potential model for America’s future.
“You do not have to have emergency powers or a military coup for democracy to wither,” Aziz Huq, a constitutional-law professor at the University of Chicago, told me. “Most recent cases of backsliding, Hungary being a classic example, have occurred through legal means.” Orbán runs for reëlection every four years. In theory, there is a chance that he could lose. In practice, he has so thoroughly rigged the system that his grip on power is virtually assured. The political-science term for this is “competitive authoritarianism.” Most scholarly books about democratic backsliding (“The New Despotism,” “Democracy Rules,” “How Democracies Die”) cite Hungary, along with Brazil and Turkey, as countries that were consolidated democracies, for a while, before they started turning back the clock.
… [Orban’s] constant theme is that only he can preserve Hungary for the (non-Muslim, ethnically Magyar) Hungarians—about as close as any European head of state will come to an explicit rejection of ethnic pluralism in favor of state-sanctioned white nationalism. For many of his American admirers, this seems to be a core element of his appeal. Lauren Stokes, a professor of European history at Northwestern University, told me, “The offer Orbán is making to global conservatives is: I alone can save you from the ravages of Islamization and totalitarian progressivism—and, in the face of all that, who has time for checks and balances and rules?

25 May
Hungary’s Viktor Orban declares state of emergency, citing the Ukraine war to expand his power.
Fresh from an election victory last month, Prime Minister Viktor Orban of Hungary has declared a “state of emergency” in the country, using the war in Ukraine as a pretext to further entrench his power.
Before the announcement on Tuesday, Mr. Orban, a right-wing populist with ties to Russia’s president, had cited the conflict in Ukraine as a justification for the expanded executive emergency powers, which allow him to bypass Hungary’s legislative process and rule by decree.
The emergency powers, he said, would enable him to respond swiftly to pressing challenges spurred by the war such as ensuring the safety of Hungarians and confronting economic hurdles.

20-21 May
Trump shares CPAC Hungary platform with notorious racist and antisemite
A notorious Hungarian racist who has called Jews “stinking excrement”, referred to Roma as “animals” and used racial epithets to describe Black people, was a featured speaker at a major gathering of US Republicans in Budapest.
Zsolt Bayer took the stage at the second day of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) Hungary, a convention that also featured speeches from Donald Trump, Fox News host Tucker Carlson, and Trump’s former White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows.
Viktor Orbán tells CPAC the path to power is to ‘have your own media’
Hungarian leader also tells Republicans at Budapest conference that shows like Tucker Carlson’s should be broadcast ‘24/7’
The Hungarian prime minister said that with his fourth electoral victory on 3 April, Hungary had been “completely healed” of “progressive dominance”. He suggested it was time for the right to join forces.

20 May
Europe’s week: Hungary and Turkey block Western efforts against Russia
(Euro News) Orbán continues to block the EU’s embargo on Russian oil, while Erdogan is against Sweden and Finland joining NATO, accusing the pair of being a safe haven for Kurdish activists.
“Enlargement of NATO is meaningful for us in proportion, as long as they respect our sensitivities,” Erdogan said. “It is inconsistent to say, at the least, giving all kinds of support to the PKK and YPG terrorist organisation and asking us for support for NATO membership.”

8 April
Ira Glass: Do Not Go Gentle
(This American Life) In this moment when autocrats and almost-autocrats are getting bolder and more powerful, we bring you two stories of resistance, from Hungary and Russia.
Hungary had an election last week. Hungary used to be a functioning democracy, but it’s gotten less and less so. Once again, this time around, Viktor Orban was named prime minister. He’s been prime minister there for the last 12 years. Now, he gets four more– no term limits over there.
And to give you a sense of just how stacked the deck was in his favor– like how extreme it was– during the entire election, the amount of time Orban’s opponents got on state television to make their case to voters was exactly five minutes. I mean, like, for the whole election– you with me here? Tons of coverage for Orban– all of it positive– speeches, interviews, analysis from months. For his opponents– just five minutes.

3-5 April
Why Orbán Won Again
Dorottya Szikra , Mitchell A. Orenstein
(Project Syndicate) Hungary’s general election showed that voters are willing to back a leader who violates European norms if it serves their economic interests. The challenge for Viktor Orbán’s opponents is to devise economic and social policies that attract not only the growing middle class but also those left behind by Orbán’s agenda.
Hungary’s Manipulated Election
Bálint Magyar, Bálint Madlovics
(Project Syndicate) This was not the first manipulated election in Hungary. After Fidesz won its first supermajority in 2010, it changed the electoral law unilaterally to boost its own future results (through gerrymandering and new rules awarding extra seats for big wins in individual districts). With these changes in place, Fidesz retained its supermajority in 2014, even though it received 8% less of the vote than it had in 2010. Changing the rules has since become the party’s modus operandi. Its amendments to the electoral law now number in the hundreds; the latest were adopted just months ago. Owing to the electoral system’s skewed rules, Fidesz has secured 68% of parliamentary seats with 53% of the vote.

Orban scores crushing victory as Ukraine war solidifies support
(Reuters) Hungary’s nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orban scored a fourth consecutive landslide win in Sunday’s election, as voters endorsed his ambition of a conservative, “illiberal” state and shrugged off concerns over Budapest’s close ties with Moscow.
War in Ukraine has upset campaign
Hungarians voted amid inflation surge, with economy set to slow
Orban’s Fidesz wins two-thirds of parliament seats
Far-right Our Homeland party gets into parliament
One European friend of WN reacts:
The rest of the EU is aghast. I think this is tragic and could end up with Hungary being expelled from the EU after Orban gets more air under his wings. He criticized Zelensky and Ukraine for having “caused the conflict in Ukraine”. The results indicate that even if the vote was rigged to a certain degree, Orban has genuine support in Hungary. So did Hitler in Germany. The results indicate that a majority of Hungarians do not adhere to the same ideals as do the other members.

2 April
Hungary: where editors tell reporters to disregard facts before their eyes
With elections imminent, some say independent media is in a weaker state than in communist 1980s
(The Guardian) People familiar with MTI, a source of news for other media, say there is a blacklist of organisations that cannot be reported on, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. Any attempt to write about their reports “is work done for the dustbin”, said a second source. And while there is no ban on reporting the opposition, “the coverage is profoundly lopsided in the sense that the coverage given to pro-government parties and politicians is disproportionately wider in range and scope”, one person said. “I would go as far as saying that the distribution is nine to one in the government’s favour.”
While these comments refer to the news agency, the rules are said to be identical across Hungary’s public service broadcasting organisation, MTVA, which houses state TV, radio and the news agency.

28 March-1 April
Hungary’s opposition struggles to beat Viktor Orban’s stealth autocracy
The populist prime minister has subverted nearly every institution that matters
In Hungary, Viktor Orban Remakes an Election to His Liking
The populist prime minister, a hero to many American conservatives, has changed voting rules and legalized ‘voter tourism’ as he stands for re-election
By Matt Apuzzo and Benjamin Novak
(NYT) In more than a decade in power, Mr. Orban has not hesitated to use the levers of government power to erode democratic norms and cement one-party rule. He has rewritten the Constitution, remade the courts and used state-run and privately owned television stations — even school textbooks — to advance his agenda or push misinformation about his rivals.
He has unleashed a fresh round of election law changes that benefit his party. He put an inflammatory but ultimately symbolic L.G.B.T. referendum up for a vote, a move that is likely to rally his most strident supporters. And he legalized the registration of voters outside of their home districts — a common practice, until now criminal, that is known as “voter tourism.”
… He has unleashed a fresh round of election law changes that benefit his party. He put an inflammatory but ultimately symbolic L.G.B.T. referendum up for a vote, a move that is likely to rally his most strident supporters. And he legalized the registration of voters outside of their home districts — a common practice, until now criminal, that is known as “voter tourism.”
Gwynne Dyer: Has Hungary’s despot Orbán pulled the political wool over his people’s eyes again?
Russian President Vladimir Putin may not be able to save himself, but he may already have saved another despot, Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. There’s an election in Hungary next Sunday, and it looks like Orbán may actually win it. A month ago he was trailing the opposition badly, but then Russia invaded Ukraine.
Hungary is one of the new-model ‘soft’ dictatorships that look like democracies to the average passer-by. After all, there are no secret police, you can criticise the government publicly, and they actually count all the votes in the elections. Sometimes they find a few extra votes as well, but Orbán really has won three more or less fair elections in a row.
Yet he actually is a dictator (‘The Viktator’, some people call him) despite the free elections. They don’t need to be rigged in advance, because Orbán controls almost all the media that the voters get their information from. And he doesn’t even need to win a majority of the votes, because the election districts are gerrymandered in his favour. …
Orbán’s greatest success was extending citizenship to over a million ethnic Hungarians who live as minorities in surrounding countries – and also giving them access to generous Hungarian social benefits. They may never have been to Hungary, but they make up one-tenth of the electorate, they take the money – and 95% of them vote for Fidesz.

26 March
Hungary’s Orban criticized for ‘neutrality’ in Ukraine war
(AP) Widely seen as Russian President Vladimir Putin’s closest ally in the European Union, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has sought to assert Hungary’s neutrality in the war in Ukraine, even as his allies in the EU and NATO assist the embattled country and punish Russia for launching the largest armed conflict in Europe since World War II.
Orban, who faces a difficult election on April 3, has refused to supply Ukraine with military aid — alone among Ukraine’s EU neighbors — and has not allowed lethal weapons to be shipped to Ukraine across Hungary’s borders.
While his approach has gained traction among many of his supporters, Orban’s reluctance to act unambiguously in support of Ukraine and his insistence on maintaining his Russian economic interests has led to frustration and outrage among other European leaders — not least the Ukrainian president himself.

1 March
Hungary’s Orban faces pressure to cut close ties with Putin
(AP) — Hungary’s right-wing nationalist prime minister, Viktor Orban, has for more than a decade nurtured close political and economic ties with Russia, giving him the reputation as the Kremlin’s closest European Union ally.
For weeks, as Russian President Vladimir Putin amassed tens of thousands of troops along the borders of Ukraine, Hungary’s neighbor to the east, Orban avoided condemning the buildup and spoke emphatically against applying sanctions.
As tensions escalated, Orban even traveled to Moscow, where he met with Putin in the Kremlin, their 12th official visit in as many years, and lobbied for larger shipments of Russian gas.
But when Russia’s large-scale invasion commenced last week, Orban for the first time laid responsibility for the tensions and violence on Moscow in what could be a turning point in his more than decade-long, pro-Russia approach.

16 February
Hungary’s Freedom Election
Kati Marton
Over the past 12 years, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has turned Hungary into a corruption-ridden “illiberal democracy” that is at odds with the rest of Europe. But now that the usually fractious opposition is united behind one candidate, Hungarians finally have a chance to show Orbán the door.
(Project Syndicate) … [T]he conservative mayor of Hódmezővásárhely, a small, rural town in the center of the country. A devout Christian with seven children, Márki-Zay is running on a pro-European, pro-rule of law, anti-corruption platform. He describes himself as “everything that Viktor Orbán pretends to be.”
In gearing up for this year’s election, Orbán has held rallies accusing the EU of attempting to “seize Hungary from the hands of the Virgin Mary, to cast it at the feet of Brussels.” Yet despite his rants and flagrant violations of EU rules and values, Hungary remains a member of the bloc. The EU’s convoluted bureaucracy simply wasn’t built to handle an autocrat like Orbán. It lacks any mechanism to bring him to heel, largely because he has been able to rely on Poland’s own illiberal government to veto any action taken against him.

1-5 February
Facing Tough Election, Orban Turns to Putin for Support
The Hungarian leader made his name by defying Moscow. But he has increasingly turned toward Russia in an effort to secure the natural gas he needs to keep energy prices low and voters happy.
Meeting in Moscow with President Vladimir V. Putin, he signaled sympathy for Russia in its standoff with the West over Ukraine, and pleaded for more deliveries of the natural gas he needs to keep energy prices low and voters happy.
It’s dirty tricks déjà vu as Hungarian election heats up
Media outlets loyal to Prime Minister Viktor Orbán publish secret recordings of civil society figures.
(Politico Eu) Pro-government daily Magyar Nemzet said this week that it obtained new recordings showing that non-governmental organizations linked to Hungarian-American financier and philanthropist George Soros are “manipulating” international press coverage of Hungary — a claim civil society groups have strongly rejected.
Hungary’s leader, visiting Moscow, calls Russian demands reasonable and says sanctions are pointless

11 January
Hungary sets election for April 3 in big challenge to Orban
(AP) — Hungary will hold a parliamentary election on April 3, the president said Tuesday, in a vote that will decide whether Prime Minister Viktor Orban will remain in office after 12 years in power.
President Janos Ader made the announcement on the election date, which is the earliest allowed by law, on his website. It will be the ninth election since Hungary’s democratic transition from a communist state in 1990.
Ader said that the election will be held on the same day as a contentious referendum sponsored by the governing party, which will poll Hungarians on their attitudes toward LGBT issues — something opponents say is meant to vilify sexual minorities.

3 January
How the E.U. Allowed Hungary to Become an Illiberal Model
After years of complacency and wishful thinking, Brussels is finally trying to rein in the country’s pugnacious leader, Prime Minister Viktor Orban.
Steven Erlanger and
(NYT) After long indulging him, leaders in the European Union now widely consider Prime Minister Viktor Orban of Hungary an existential threat to a bloc that holds itself up as a model of human rights and the rule of law.
Mr. Orban has spent the past decade steadily building his “illiberal state,” as he proudly calls Hungary, with the help of lavish E.U. funding. Even as his project widened fissures in the bloc, which Hungary joined in 2004, his fellow national leaders mostly looked the other way, committed to staying out of one another’s affairs.
But now Mr. Orban’s defiance and intransigence has had an important, if unintended, effect: serving as a catalyst for an often-sluggish European Union system to act to safeguard the democratic principles that are the foundation of the bloc.
Early this year, the European Court of Justice will issue a landmark decision on whether the union has the authority to make its funds to member states conditional on meeting the bloc’s core values. Doing so would allow Brussels to deny billions of euros to countries that violate those values.

2021

9 December
Biden sees if a snub will get Orbán’s attention
Not all of the Hungarian leader’s critics are convinced leaving Hungary out of a democracy summit is an effective punishment.
(Politico) The high-profile snub is not necessarily a surprise — Orbán has faced years of international reprimands for muzzling the media, meddling in the judicial branch and eroding LGBTQ+ rights. And that’s on top of the warm relationships Orbán has developed with Moscow and Beijing, a troubling development for Hungary’s NATO allies.
But the singularity of Hungary’s omission raised eyebrows, fueling speculation about what Washington is hoping to achieve and whether this is the best approach. While the decision shines a spotlight on Hungary’s track record, even some of the prime minister’s critics wonder if it also feeds Orbán’s political grievances of unfair treatment. Meanwhile, others question if it even really registers for Orbán, given how far he has already drifted from the political mainstream.
The ostracization is “humiliating” but “not surprising,” said Géza Jeszenszky, Hungary’s U.S. ambassador from 1998-2002, Orbán’s first term as prime minister. Nevertheless, he added, the approach “makes it easy for the Hungarian government to say that ‘well, this is a double standard.’”

Heather Cox Richardson October 26, 2021
…in this era, democracies die more often through the ballot box than at gunpoint.
You can see it in Hungary, where Viktor Orbán has quite deliberately dismantled liberal democracy and replaced it with what he calls “illiberal democracy.”
On paper, Hungary is a democracy in that it still holds elections, but it is, in fact, a one-party state overseen by one man.
Orbán has been open about his determination to overthrow the concept of western democracy, replacing it with what he has, on different occasions, called “illiberal democracy,” or “Christian democracy.” He wants to replace the multiculturalism at the heart of democracy with Christian culture, stop the immigration that he believes undermines Hungarian culture, and reject “adaptable family models” with “the Christian family model.”
No matter what he calls it, Orbán’s model is not democracy at all. As soon as he retook office in 2010, he began to establish control over the media, cracking down on those critical of his party, Fidesz, and rewarding those who toed the party line. In 2012 his supporters rewrote the country’s constitution to strengthen his hand, and extreme gerrymandering gave his party more power while changes to election rules benefited his campaigns. Increasingly, he used the power of the state to concentrate wealth among his cronies, and he reworked the country’s judicial system and civil service system to stack it with his loyalists. While Hungary still has elections, state control of the media and the apparatus of voting means that it is impossible for Orbán’s opponents to win an election.
Hungary is in the news in the United States because Americans on the right have long admired Orbán’s nationalism and centering of Christianity, while the fact that Hungary continues to hold elections enables them to pretend that the country remains a democracy.
In 2019, Fox News Channel personality Tucker Carlson endorsed Hungary’s anti-abortion and anti-immigration policies; in that year, according to investigative researcher Anna Massoglia of Open Secrets, Hungary paid a D.C. lobbying firm $265,000, in part to arrange an interview on Carlson’s show. Recently, former vice president Mike Pence spoke in Budapest at a forum denouncing immigration and urging traditional social values, where he told the audience he hoped that the U.S. Supreme Court would soon outlaw abortion thanks to the three justices Trump put on the court. Further indicating the drift of today’s right wing, the 2022 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) will be held in Budapest.
In their embrace of the illiberal democracy of Hungary, those on the right argue that they are defending traditional American values.

19 October
How the American Right Fell in Love With Hungary
Some U.S. conservatives are taking a cue from Prime Minister Viktor Orban — how to use the power of the state to win the culture wars.
(NYT Magazine) For one week this summer, Fox News beamed the face of Prime Minister Viktor Orban of Hungary into the homes of Tucker Carlson’s 3.2 million viewers. In a two-tiered library adorned with dark wood and the Hungarian flag, Carlson sat across from the prime minister in Budapest with an expression of intense concentration, though he evinced little familiarity with the internal affairs of Hungary. The trip was hastily arranged after Orban agreed to the interview. … Carlson’s trip to Hungary was prompted, in part, by a text message from Rod Dreher, a conservative writer. Dreher, who spent the spring and summer there on a fellowship and helped Carlson secure the interview with Orban, understands, as the activist Christopher F. Rufo recently observed, that Carlson doesn’t report the news for American conservatives; he creates it. Bringing Carlson to Budapest was meant to persuade Americans to pay attention to Orban’s Hungary.

17 October
Outsider Marki-Zay to stand against PM Orban in 2022 after winning run-off
By Gergely Szakacs and Krisztina Than
For the first time since he came to power in 2010, Orban will face a united front of opposition parties that also includes the Socialists, liberals and the formerly far-right, now centre-right, Jobbik.
(Reuters) – Small-town conservative Peter Marki-Zay, a political outsider with no party affiliation, will go head-to-head with Prime Minister Viktor Orban next year for leadership of Hungary after winning an opposition run-off primary on Sunday.
Marki-Zay defeated leftist Klara Dobrev, who on Sunday pledged to support him at the head of an alliance of six opposition parties that will bid to oust Orban after more than a decade in power in next year’s parliamentary election.
Marki-Zay’s family-man image and Christian faith could appeal to swathes of undecided voters, both in the countryside and Budapest, making him a tough competitor for Orban. (Outsider Marki-Zay hopes to blunt Orban’s attacks in 2022 Hungarian election)
Opinion polls show Orban’s ruling Fidesz party and the opposition alliance running neck-and-neck.

4 October
Hungary’s Leader Fights Criticism in U.S. via Vast Influence Campaign
(NYT) Viktor Orban, the country’s far-right prime minister, has spent millions on lobbying, support for think tanks and cultivating allies in Washington.
Former Vice President Mike Pence turned up in Hungary last month to speak to a conference on conservative social values hosted by the far-right government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban.
Jeff Sessions, the former attorney general, was another recent visitor. Tucker Carlson did his Fox News show from Hungary for a week this summer. The American Conservative Union is planning a version of its CPAC gathering in Budapest early next year.
Those are among the more visible recent fruits of a well-funded campaign by Mr. Orban in the United States that stretches back a decade and now stands as a case study in how governments around the world seek to shape policies and debates in Washington, sometimes raising concerns about improper foreign influence in U.S. politics.
Carried out by a network of government offices, Washington lobbyists, Hungarian diaspora groups, educational institutions and government-funded foundations, the effort’s main impact has been to bolster Mr. Orban’s image as a conservative leader on the world stage — and to counter his reputation as an authoritarian nationalist who is cozying up to Russia and China.

30 September
Pro-EU Dobrev wins first round of primary to take on Hungary’s Orban
(Reuters) – A 49-year-old lawyer who favours closer ties with the European Union pledged to unseat Viktor Orban as Hungary’s prime minister, after she won the first round of a contest that will produce his challenger in an election next year.
Klara Dobrev, the leftist Democratic Coalition’s candidate, won the first round of primary vote ahead of another leftist, Budapest mayor Gergely Karacsony, who also campaigned on a pro-European agenda.
In next year’s parliamentary vote Orban will, for the first time since he came to power in 2010, face a united front of opposition parties that also includes the Socialists, the liberals and the formerly far-right – and now centre-right – Jobbik.
Opinion polls put Orban’s nationalist Fidesz party and the opposition coalition neck and neck, raising the prospect of the tightest election in more than a decade.

20 July
Hungary’s spyware scandal is a crisis for Europe
Hungary’s prime minister, Viktor Orban, was already seen as a boogeyman stalking the West.
(LSE) In nearly a dozen years in power, he has transformed his nation’s fledgling liberal democracy into a thorn in the side of the European Union. Critics accuse Orban of presiding over a “post-communist mafia state,” where the media is dominated by his allies, the courts are stacked with his loyalists, the electoral map gerrymandered in favor of his right-wing Fidesz party and a network of kleptocratic patronage traces its way back to the prime minister.
Then there’s his politics: Orban styles himself as the continent’s great illiberal and grandstands ceaselessly over the perceived evils of immigration, multiculturalism, feminism and European integration. He has at various times been accused of peddling anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, homophobia and anti-Roma sentiment.

2020

30 November
The Orbán veto is no accident: following EU law would threaten the Hungarian PM’s business empire
A rapid lockdown initially contained COVID-19 in Hungary, but now the country is struggling with a second wave. Much of the vaunted crisis package was designed to prop up Viktor Orbán’s kleptocratic business empire, and his threat to veto the EU budget recognises the danger the rule of EU law poses to his ‘Empire’, writes Júlia Király.
The core element of Orbán’s economy is the Orbanian (Galactic) Empire, a loose, opaque network of holding companies and investment funds owned by friends, relatives and subordinates of the Prime Minister. The Empire enters those industries – especially construction, retail business, tourism and lately banking – that do not compete on the export markets.
It is difficult to assess how deeply the Empire is rooted in the economy and how wide is its total span. The Empire is based on rent-seeking and audacious corruption. Several objective indicators support the argument a crony system and a kleptocratic state operate in the field of public procurement in Hungary, especially focusing on the appropriation of EU funds. These processes clearly contradict the rule of law of the European Union.

20 May
There are good reasons to consider Trump and Orban as parallel figures.
They have similar political bases, similar enemies and similar support from the “nationalist international” that has rallied online support for populists the world over. Both are sharp critics of international institutions and liberal politesse, both have cronyist tendencies and insalubrious associations and both have benefited immensely from the failures of the genteel center, the respectable elite.
… Orban is not exactly the autocrat of liberal caricature, but he is a politician profoundly interested in political power and its uses, and he has consolidated enough power for his circle and his party that the liberal alarm around his rule is understandable.
Consider their differing responses to the coronavirus. In Hungary, its arrival prompted a swift push for a declaration of emergency, passed by a supermajority in Hungary’s Parliament, that gave the prime minister extraordinary powers for the duration of the crisis — and left that duration open-ended, a state of exception without a formal end.
What this meant was instantly disputed: Orban’s critics charged that Hungary had crossed the Rubicon into dictatorship; the European Union hemmed and hedged; Orban himself has let be known that he may return the powers to the legislature this month and give “everyone a chance to apologize to Hungary for the unfair charges.” (Hungary, like most of Eastern Europe, has successfully contained the coronavirus for now.)

30 March
Hungary’s Viktor Orbán wins vote to rule by decree
While the new legislation remains in place, no elections can be held and Orbán’s government will be able to suspend the enforcement of certain laws.
(Politico) While the new legislation remains in place, no elections can be held and Orbán’s government will be able to suspend the enforcement of certain laws. Plus, individuals who publicize what are viewed as untrue or distorted facts — and which could interfere with the protection of the public, or could alarm or agitate a large number of people — now face several years in jail.
The legislation has elicited deep concern both among civil rights groups in Hungary and international institutions, with officials from the Council of Europe, United Nations and Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe publicly expressing fears about the bill. The legislation also drew criticism from members of the European Parliament.
Critics say that emergency measures to address the coronavirus crisis should be temporary and time-limited to allow for checks and balances. Hungary is currently facing Article 7 proceedings under the EU Treaty, used when a country is considered at risk of breaching the bloc’s core values.

2019

15 November
Pushed From Hungary, University Created by Soros Shifts to Vienna
Central European University and its founder, George Soros, have been favorite targets of Hungary’s leader, Viktor Orban, as he stifles dissenting voices.
By Benjamin Novak
(NYT) Forced out of Hungary, Central European University marked its relocation to Vienna on Friday with a bittersweet ceremony that amounted to a victory for Hungary’s far-right prime minister, Viktor Orban, in his campaign against liberal values.
Founded and endowed after the fall of the Iron Curtain by George Soros, the billionaire financier and philanthropist, the university promoted democracy and liberal thought in a region where they had been suppressed for a century under fascism and communism.
But it ran afoul of Mr. Orban’s increasingly authoritarian and nativist government, which has turned Mr. Soros — a Jew who was born and raised in Hungary, but has lived most of his life in the West — into a kind of all-purpose boogeyman.
Mr. Soros announced on Friday that his Open Society Foundations had committed 750 million euros, about $825 million, to an effort by Central European University and Bard College in New York to build a global network for colleges and universities to work together and support each other.
26 October
In Hungary, Viktor Orban Showers Money on Stadiums, Less So on Hospitals
By Patrick Kingsley and Benjamin Novak
(NYT) Gleaming soccer stadiums. Decaying hospitals. The contrast reflects the priorities of Mr. Orban, who has become one of Europe’s most powerful far-right leaders by presenting himself as a nationalist champion of ordinary Hungarians and a scourge of European elites.
Yet ordinary Hungarians have suffered most as the country has plunged in European health ratings and many doctors have departed since Mr. Orban took office in 2010. Health care was badly managed by prior administrations, but Mr. Orban has overseen a drop in government health care funding as a proportion of national economic output.
At the same time, Mr. Orban pushed through a program that has allowed businesses to divert at least $1.5 billion in corporate taxes directly to sports institutions. The biggest recipient is the professional soccer team that Mr. Orban co-founded. He uses the stadium’s V.I.P. section to entertain state officials and wealthy business leaders — raising questions about conflicts of interest, and corruption.
While Hungary’s health care ratings have dropped, the flood of money into sports has not improved its ranking in European soccer.
And in both health care and tax revenue, Mr. Orban’s government has weakened accountability and transparency, much in the way he has curbed the media, the courts and other democratic institutions in creating what critics call a semi-autocracy inside the European Union.
… Mr. Orban has de-emphasized health care in his government. He eliminated the Health Ministry, which was subsumed into a “super ministry,” depriving the sector of a cabinet-level representative.
He also has weakened oversight. The chief medical officer, an independent state ombudsman, has lost resources. The Health Insurance Supervisory Board, an independent body with a mandate to inspect hospitals, has been disbanded.

3 July
Hungary’s far-right government passes law that lets it take over scientific research bodies
(The Independent) Hungary‘s far-right government has passed a law allowing the state to tighten its control over scientific research bodies.
The law strips the 200-year-old Hungarian Academy of Sciences of its network of 15 research bodies and hands them over to a committee.
The committee’s chairman will be appointed by Viktor Orban, the Hungary’s nationalist prime minister, and half of its members will be selected by the government.
Lydia Gall, Eastern Europe and Balkans researcher at Human Rights Watch, said the law is “essentially another nail in the coffin for academic freedom and independent thought” in the country.
“This is the latest in a line of attacks on academic freedom after forcing the Central European University out of the country and banning gender studies at universities,” she told The Independent.
Liviu Matei, provost of the Central European University, said: “This is just another moment illustrating the disdain of this government – of the regime perhaps I should say – for the value of science, for academic freedom, for the rule of law and democracy. It’s not something new in Hungary. It’s just confirming a trend that has been here for many years now.”
Professor Matei said one Hungarian research team had already decided to leave the country and move to Sweden “because they cannot continue their work here”. He added: “Freedom for science, for education, is being restricted almost by the day.”

13-14 May
(The Atlantic) Donald Trump embraced Hungary’s prime minister at today’s White House meeting. Viktor Orbán has flirted with authoritarianism and undermined democratic institutions in the country as part of his self-proclaimed goal of creating an “illiberal democratic” state. The praise from the president isn’t all that surprising: Trump’s own hand-picked ambassador in Hungary told Franklin Foer that “knowing the president for a good 25 or 30 years … he would love to have the situation that Viktor Orbán has.”
(Reuters) ‘Like me, a little controversial’ said President Trump as he praised Hungary’s Prime Minister and brushed off concerns about threats to democratic norms in Hungary during Viktor Orban’s tenure. “He’s a respected man. And I know he’s a tough man, but he’s a respected man,” Trump said, when asked whether he had concerns about a weakening of democracy in Hungary. Welcoming the right-wing Hungarian leader for a meeting in the Oval Office, Trump lauded him for being tough on immigration, a policy area in which the two leaders have similar visions.
Trump should be isolating Viktor Orbán, not feting him at the White House
Editor’s Note: With European Parliament elections coming up later this month, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s reception at the White House by President Trump appears an endorsement of illiberal, nationalist forces which seek to weaken the European Union, providing opportunities for Russia and China to divide the West, argues James Kirchick. This piece originally appeared in NBC News.
(Brookings) Those elections are projected to result in increasing support for a variety of nationalist factions, from Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party to Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini’s Northern League, all of which seek to weaken the European Union and, in doing so, provide opportunities for powers such as Russia and China to divide the West from within.
Having transformed his country into the illiberal democracy he prophesied in 2014, Orbán has emerged as the most visible leader of these forces. Under such conditions, the United States should be isolating the Hungarian prime minister, not embracing him.
Monday’s will be the first visit of a Hungarian leader to the Oval Office since 2005. White House meetings are a precious commodity that presidents typically dispense to close allies or to achieve clear-cut U.S. foreign policy objectives. Under Orbán, Hungary has repeatedly snubbed the U.S. and the liberal, democratic values it seeks to uphold in Europe. It has expelled U.S.-accredited Central European University, blocked NATO cooperation with Ukraine, unleashed state-sponsored Holocaust revisionism and anti-Semitism, and refused to extradite a pair of Russian arms dealers wanted for selling weapons to Mexican drug cartels, to name just a few of Budapest’s more egregious rebuffs.

10 May
Viktor Orbán’s War on Intellect
As the Hungarian prime minister systematically undermined his own country’s education system, one institution stood defiant: a university in the heart of Budapest, founded by George Soros.
By Franklin Foer
(The Atlantic June edition) On a relentlessly gray Budapest morning, Michael Ignatieff took me to the rooftop of Central European University’s main building. Ignatieff, an intellectual who made an unsuccessful bid to become prime minister of Canada, has spent much of his career studying the fragility of human rights and the irresistible impulse toward nationalism. When he became CEU’s rector in 2016, however, he didn’t believe the job would catapult him to the front lines of the fight for liberalism. He imagined it would be more like a pleasant homecoming. Hungary is the native land of his wife, Zsuzsanna; he had come to know the place intimately on regular visits to her family. “I’m of a certain age,” he said. “I thought, That’s a nice way to top it off.”
Hungary once had some of the best universities in postcommunist Europe. But Orbán’s government has systematically crushed them. His functionaries have descended on public universities, controlling them tightly. Research funding, once determined by an independent body of academics, is now primarily dispensed by an Orbán loyalist.
Like Pol Pot or Josef Stalin, Orbán dreams of liquidating the intelligentsia, draining the public of education, and molding a more pliant nation. But he is a state-of-the-art autocrat; he understands that he need not resort to the truncheon or the midnight knock at the door. His assault on civil society arrives in the guise of legalisms subverting the institutions that might challenge his authority.
CEU is a private university, accredited in both the United States and Hungary, and for that reason it has posed a particular challenge to the regime. The school was founded by the Budapest-born financier George Soros, whom Orbán has vilified as a nefarious interloper in Hungary’s affairs. Soros had conceived the school during the dying days of communism to train a generation of technocrats who would write new constitutions, privatize state enterprises, and lead the post-Soviet world into a cosmopolitan future. The university, he declared, would “become a prototype of an open society.”
When Orbán moved against CEU, it wasn’t just political posturing or spleen. Destroying Hungary’s finest institution of higher education was a crucial step in his quest for eternal political life.

22 April
Study documents electoral corruption in Hungary
(Yale News) Politicians and powerbrokers in Hungary use a variety of illicit election strategies to secure people’s votes, including making access to public benefits contingent on supporting preferred candidates, according to a new study co-authored by Yale political scientist Isabela Mares.
Mares and co-author Lauren Young, an assistant professor of political science at the University of California-Davis, documented the prevalence of multiple forms of electoral clientelism — quid pro quo exchanges of votes for some agreed upon behavior by a politician — in Hungary’s 2014 parliamentary elections.
The study, published in the journal Comparative Politics, is the first to document electoral clientelism in Hungary, a member of NATO and the European Union.
Until now, we didn’t know whether clientelism existed in countries in the European Union,” said Mares, a professor of political science. “These are countries that are supposed to have free and fair elections. The existence of these illicit practices in Hungary is extremely important.”
Research on clientelism generally has focused on documenting vote buying — the exchange of private money or gifts for votes — in developing countries in Latin America and Africa, Mares said.

21 March
Bloomberg Politics: Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban emerged bruised, but not beaten, after Europe’s biggest political family froze the membership of his Fidesz party for eroding democratic standards. At home, Orban’s pro-government propaganda machine portrayed the suspension as voluntary and a victory over factions that wanted him expelled, rather than humiliation. That gives him the option of either repairing ties or joining forces with like-minded nationalists after May’s European Parliament elections BBC: Hungary Orban: Europe’s centre-right EPP suspends Fidesz

18 March
Hungary Rolls Out Red Carpet for Obscure Russian Bank, Stoking Spy Fears
The International Investment Bank, an obscure Russian financial institution with a small-time balance sheet, is an unlikely source of global intrigue. In more normal times, its plans to open a new headquarters in Budapest would pass unnoticed.
But the bank’s chairman has longstanding ties to Russian intelligence agencies. And the Hungarian Parliament has effectively granted the bank diplomatic immunity from any scrutiny by police or financial regulators — leaving Western security officials concerned that Russian spies could use it as a base to conduct European intelligence operations.
Several European nations have expelled Russian agents and cracked down on Kremlin finances in an effort to present a united front as Moscow is accused of meddling in the American election, poisoning a former spy in Britain and targeting European think tanks with hacking attacks.
And if the Europeans are now concerned about the Russian bank, so are the Americans, especially since the Trump administration has cultivated Hungary’s prime minister, Viktor Orban, as an ally. Days before Parliament granted immunity to the Russian bank, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met Mr. Orban in Budapest and warned against allowing Russia to drive a wedge between friends.

28 February
I knew Orbán when he started his political journey; where it’s taken him terrifies me
By András B. Vágvölgyi
(euronews) Orbán’s political appetite knows no limits. His dreams are simple dreams; the dreams you might hear voiced in any bar or football stadium. There should be power (lots of it), money (lots of that too), the Olympics or the World Cup. In fact, any mega event will do to further the development of the neo-feudalist regime. This would inflict still further damage on the wounded social and psychological fabric of the country, with its ethos of silent surrender and petty jealousy. It is astonishing to see how Orbán, in spite of the size and limited resources of his country, has managed to become such a big player on the international stage.
He is like the youngest son in the fairy tales who, in his cunning and care-free way, smashes down everything to gain revenge. He has followers from Poland to Slovenia and North Macedonia, and his destructive work is celebrated in Bavaria, Italy and Austria. He thinks he can bamboozle everyone from Trump to Xi Jinping
Today, the pressing issue is the nightmare world which Vladislav Surkov (Putin’s spin doctor), Breitbart, Steve Bannon and other ultra-Trumpist outlets, Gazeta Polska or even the Hungarian Árpád Habony (Orbán’s spin doctor) are spinning around us. The fight against this is a question of both hardware and software. Around 1989, the Hungarian press and most of its media took note of the warnings that the opposition intellectuals in Budapest sounded in their samizdat publications.
They received support from the Munich-based Radio Free Europe, which was financed by the US Congress and supported the liberal line. Orbán understood this, bulldozing the contemporary media scene aside and after 2010, seizing control of all media that had a mass reach.
It’s really only the Hungarian people who can topple Orbán, yet he represents a threat to Europe as a whole. In Hungary, the bulk of the opposition parties have adopted shades of Orbánism, either as a group or out of self-interest. But any intellectual and political forces that have a sense of responsibility for Europe cannot abandon those intellectual and political forces in Hungary that are opposing Orbán. This is not just a matter of general ethics, but of pure self-preservation.

14 January
Viktor Orbán’s Far-Right Vision for Europe
The Prime Minister of Hungary, who thrives on conflict, has consolidated power in his own country. Now he is turning his attention to the E.U.
By Elisabeth Zerofsky
(The New Yorker) Fidesz and other right-wing parties in the E.U. contend that unelected bureaucrats are making consequential decisions—regulating markets, inflicting rules on technology and economic development, setting quotas of refugee resettlements—without the participation of European citizens; increasingly, voters agree. This resentment is at the core of the Brexit movement in the U.K. and lies behind the growing strength of xenophobic parties in Italy, France, the Netherlands, Scandinavia, and Central Europe. Steve Bannon, who has been serving as an informal adviser to various nationalist parties, told me, “The fight right now in the E.U. is between those who look at the nation-state as something to be overcome and the others, who look at the nation-state as something to be nurtured.”

8 January
Is Hungary becoming a rogue state in the center of Europe?
By James Kirchick
(Brookings) Most of the international criticism directed at Hungary over the past nine years has focused on domestic indicators such as the rule of law, separation of powers and press freedom. Prime Minister Viktor Orban has been remarkably blunt about his designs for Hungary, citing China, Russia and Turkey as models. After an election in April widely deemed free but not fair, he sounded a triumphal note, declaring that “the era of liberal democracy is over.”
Since Orban won reelection, however, his behavior has called into question not only his democratic bona fides, but also his basic trustworthiness as an ally of the United States and member of the democratic Western world. Increasingly, Hungary is behaving like a rogue state.

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