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Democracy is Dying in Hungary

February 12, 2018
Plain English Version

Mr. Orban and Russian President Vladimir Putin during a meeting in Budapest last year. Credit Alexey Druzhinin/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Democracies can destroy themselves. How can this happen? The destruction can begin with elections. First, a party with a certain view of the world takes power by election.

It happened in Venezuela and Turkey. Vladimir Putin of Russia came to power by election. Now they say that any election with Putin’s name on the ballot means he will win. (The next Russian election is March 18, 2018.)

Hungary is almost eight years into the decline of its democracy. It began in 2010. The right-wing party, Fidesz, took power. The Fidesz leader, Viktor Orban, became Prime Minister. His goal was to change the country’s Constitution.

His first step (not in order) was to take power from the parliament. The second step was to put his cronies in charge of the economy. The third step was to take control of the judges. The fourth step was to clamp down on the media. The fifth step was to rig elections so the vote went his way.

The result is what a critic called “a new thing under the sun.”

Prime Minister Orban has shown that even small things count. Impose fines on groups that aid migrants. Declare homelessness a crime. Make sure the public comes to believe that migrants are a threat to the country.

The most important step of all. Make sure that the billions of euros coming into the nation from the European Union go through your friends and relatives.

In the end, there is a new model for Europe. Mr. Orban calls it an “illiberal democracy.”

At first, Europe dismissed Orban. Many thought he was just a loud, populist voice. Now he is a threat. Orban says Europe’s postwar liberal way is “now at an end.” He says right-wingers are now in place in Poland. The movement is spreading to  Central and Eastern Europe.

Viktor Orban is a fan of Vladimir Putin. He was the first European leader to endorse Donald Trump.

A critic said, “Orban has pioneered a new model of single-party rule. It has spread through Eastern Europe.” It may not get to the West. Governments there are stronger. He continued, “It could break the E.U. apart. It is a conflict between liberal democracy in the West and single-party states in the East.”

The European Union does not know what to do about Orban. The EU made no rules about despots when it began. The next election in Hungary is in April 2018. Orban will win.

Source: The New York Times February 10, 2018

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