Hungary at Home

The following article by Prof. Marek Chodakiewicz was published by the Selous Foundation for Public Policy Research.

According to his admirers, Prime Minister Orban’s third achievement is to restore and rehabilitate Hungary’s past, including its pre-war and war-time leader, Regent Admiral Miklos Horthy. It was Horthy who rushed troops and armored vehicles to the streets to halt Jewish deportations, one of the very few times in Nazi-occupied Europe when anyone took up arms in defense of the Jews.

“A neo-fascist dictator” is what good Senator John McCain called Prime Minister Viktor Orban of Hungary. Given a relentless sludge of black propaganda against the Hungarian and his ruling coalition, John McCain’s injudicious remark reflects the unfair image purveyed by the media in the West. A more balanced view can obtain from a careful analysis of Orban and his actions. It all started with Budapest’s new domestic policy.

Let us recall that until quite recently Orban himself was a liberal. In fact, for almost a decade after 1989 he was cozy with the post-Communists and actively fought against conservatives, like the late Prime Minister Jozef Antall, who wanted to de-Communize, vet secret police agents, achieve property restitution, and use the government to protect the poor and downtrodden victims of Communism from the post-Communists and liberals enriching themselves in an unmitigated orgy of embezzlement. Then Orban changed. He became a Christian populist conservative with a nationalist streak. His is a system of national solidarity. The conversion appears genuine, but may complement the politician’s drive for power. The prime minister has indeed praised “illiberal democracy” and has professed his loss of faith in the free market because of the economic collapse of 2008. Most controversially, he has worked closely with a nefarious coalition partner, the radical nationalist Jobbik party, which displays a pronounced anti-Jewish, anti-Roma, and anti-Western streak.

For the record, since 2010, the Magyar politician and his populist-conservative party FIDESZ have won free general elections twice in a row, each time securing over 2/3 in the parliament, including the Jobbik. In 2014 alone, Orban scored three victories: in local, national, and European elections. This looks like a solid democratic mandate. The victorious coalition set to reforming the nation. The chief vehicle of reform was the government. This was because the Hungarian state is the single entity capable of mobilizing resources to overthrow post-Communism. Outside of the state there are no independent, powerful, and wealthy institutions or individuals willing to take on the post-Communists.

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