Recalling actions of Fidesz governments since 2010, in a lengthy article the New York Times analyses how Hungary’s ruling party and Prime Minister Viktor Orban used their “unexpectedly sweeping political power”.
“Once praised by watchdog groups as a leading democracy of post-Soviet Eastern Europe, Hungary is now considered a democracy in sharp, worrisome decline”, NYT writes, adding that “Orban has transformed the country into a political greenhouse for an odd kind of soft autocracy, combining crony capitalism and far-right rhetoric with a single-party political culture”.
“His domestic political standing is largely unchallenged, partly because of changes he has made to the electoral system; he is almost certain to win another term in April elections”, the article stresses. According to NYT, internationally Orban “has often been cast as an unruly outsider — a loud, populist voice peripheral to the mainstream, and peripheral to real power. But he is now possibly the bloc’s greatest political challenge”.
“Orban has pioneered a new model of single-party rule that has spread through Eastern Europe, which is unlikely to spread west because civil society, independent institutions and the rule of law is too strong in Western Europe,” Michael Ignatieff, the president and rector of Central European University (CEU) told NYT. Government spokesman Zoltan Kovacs defended the prime minister’s actions as a determined effort “to get rid of the remnants of communism that are still with us, not only in terms of institutions but in terms of mentality.”
“Orban is undeniably popular with many Hungarians, and recent polls show that roughly 50 percent of decided voters support Fidesz. A weak, divided opposition helps him, as does a pliant news media”, NYT reminds. In order to consolidate their power – NYT claims – Fidesz decided to curb civil society, media, judiciary and the electoral process. “The election law does not correspond to democratic features,” said Imre Voros, a founding member of the Hungarian constitutional court, “and Hungary is therefore not a democratic country.” “Crony capitalism, critics argue, has become rampant”, NYT writes. “All the characteristics and features on the surface are of democracy,” former Fidesz lawmaker Zoltan Illes said. “But behind it there is only one party and only one truth.”