The chilling rise of Viktor Orbán

Faye Navesey on the Hungarian Prime Minister's recent consolidation of power

Faye Navesey
19th April 2020
Images (left to right): President of Russia, European Parliament on Flickr, EU2017EE Estonian Presidency on Flickr and Wikimedia Commons
Democracy is most fragile in times of crisis. While Orbán's record on civil liberties is already distressing, the coronavirus epidemic has made the situation far more desperate. The new executive powers granted to Orbán mean Hungary is effectively a dictatorship, which should be of great concern to the EU, and requires immediate action.

Hungary has been in a state of regression for years, with anti-Semitism becoming more prevalent and its government clamping down on free speech, so it comes as no surprise that the current global crisis has worsened the situation. Orbán being given the power to rule by decree and bypass all scrutiny raises serious concerns over his intention to further his reactionary, far-right agenda through undemocratic means. The idea that these powers were given to him solely to address the pandemic is ridiculous. This was simply an excuse to do what the Prime Minister has been trying to do for years, which is to achieve sole authority in Hungary.

The EU has a responsibility to Hungary's vulnerable minorities, who are likely to fall victim to Orbán's government

Excessive power can corrupt any government, but particularly for a leader with Orbán's record, these new developments are of urgent concern. It is especially concerning for the EU, who claim democracy is one of their key principles. It is therefore vital that they take immediate action to rectify the situation in Hungary. The country should not enjoy the benefits of being in the EU while failing to meet basic democratic standards. Furthermore, the EU has a responsibility to Hungary's vulnerable minority groups. If they're likely to fall victim to Orbán's government, it falls upon the EU to make sure that he has less power to persecute them.

In a time of great uncertainty, it is the responsibility of organisations like the EU to take action to stop the curtailing of civil liberties. While Hungary's descent into authoritarianism is not a new trend, this crisis provides a unique opportunity for leaders like Orbán. They must be stopped.

Alex Walker's piece on Orbán is available here.

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