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The Dangerous Farce of Late-Stage Orbanism

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13.07.2021

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban started his career as a democrat. He was a bright light in the political scene in the 1990s, beloved by well-intentioned Westerners eager to help Hungary succeed in its post-Cold War transition from communism to democracy.

But Orban built his prime ministerial career as a populist. He has chosen to eschew the hard work of leading as a democrat and instead used his party’s majority as an opportunity to take an easier course—by systematically dismantling the institutions and laws that check democratic leaders and are part of what the legal scholar John MacArthur Maguire once called “those wise restraints that make men free.”

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban started his career as a democrat. He was a bright light in the political scene in the 1990s, beloved by well-intentioned Westerners eager to help Hungary succeed in its post-Cold War transition from communism to democracy.

But Orban built his prime ministerial career as a populist. He has chosen to eschew the hard work of leading as a democrat and instead used his party’s majority as an opportunity to take an easier course—by systematically dismantling the institutions and laws that check democratic leaders and are part of what the legal scholar John MacArthur Maguire once called “those wise restraints that make men free.”

And, by the looks of it, Orban will finish his career—whenever it ends—as a corrupt bully. Late-stage Orbanism isn’t really Hungarian nationalism or “illiberal democracy.” It is farce.

Last month, Orban and his collaborators pushed new anti-LGBTQ legislation through the Hungarian parliament, and on July 8, the law took effect. It echoes provisions of a similar law advanced by Russian President Vladimir Putin eight years ago and bans—among other things—favorable communication about sexual and gender diversity to minors. The law rightfully drew criticism from European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner Dunja Mijatovic. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte bluntly called for Hungary’s ejection from the EU.

In some ways, the move was a continuation of behavior we’ve seen before from Orban and his Fidesz party. In recent years, Muslim refugees and the Romani community have found themselves instrumentalized by Orban for political purposes as he capitalizes on popular xenophobia and racism. So, perhaps, needing new grist for the populist mill, Orban landed on the LGBTQ minority as an attractive target. (And perhaps it’s more than coincidence that the law follows a scandal in which one of........

© Foreign Policy


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