Viktor Orbán

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Viktor Mihály Orbán (1963–) is the current prime minister of Hungary, taking office in 2010 (though he served a non-consecutive term from 1998-2002) and maintaining a death-grip on it ever since. He has also been the head of Fidesz[note 1] for most of its existence, and has taken the formerly (classical) liberal party to the right wing of conservatism. Conveniently, he was virulently anti-Russian until he started winning elections.[1]

He and his party were originally liberal, but this changed after 1993, when they became infamous for the "székház ügy" or "hall controversy", in which they sold their own party building to a bank at a ludicrous price.[2] However, this meant that they could now buy or build a media empire and make people forget about these events.

While he already had a largely forgettable term from 1998 to 2002, when Hungary was not yet in the EU and hence nobody cared, his current term has been characterized by right-wing populism, anti-liberal, and anti-democratic rhetoric, and attempts to shut down the free press, tax the internet, and blame the EU for all ills that have befallen his country.

His (second) ascendancy to the post of prime minister was a result of the complete disintegration of the Hungarian democratic left. One of the biggest parties in Hungary besides his own Fidesz is Jobbik, which before 2015 was a bunch of right-wing lunatics even further to the right than Orbán. Hence, many Hungarians voted him into office because the democratic left had disappointed them, and they kept voting for him because, well, at least he's not Jobbik. Orbán managed to twist the electoral law and constitution in his favor so much that even the roughly 45% of the vote his party got in the 2014 electionWikipedia was enough to gain the number of seats necessary to change the constitution. Even an alliance of all relevant opposition parties failed to unseat him in 2022.

As of 2020, Icky Vicky has achieved his dream of turning Hungary into a dictatorship. The Hungarian parliament passed an act allowing him to rule by decree without any term limits, under the pretext of fighting Coronavirus.[3]

Good things he did[edit]

At least he's not Jobbik (pre-2015). He has been accused of using Jobbik (when they were still far-right) as a barometer for how far-right he can be without being insane.[4] In the 2019 local elections, however, Jobbik, having shifted from the far-right to the center-right, joined a coalition of liberal and leftist parties against Fidesz and Orbán. This led the more radical portion of Jobbik to leave and form other political parties (Magyar Hajnal — Hungarian Dawn, Mi Hazánk Mozgalom — Our Homeland Movement), although a few quite icky people still remain in Jobbik in the name of "appealing to right-wing voters".

Arguably, he could have had some role in boosting the automotive industry in Hungary.[5] However, Hungary's GDP is still lagging compared to its neighbors, and it was by effectively turning the country into a tax haven with a cheap and exploitable labor force.

Even Orbán finds Richard Spencer extreme, and he used his power to shut down a 2014 rally by the National Policy Institute in Budapest.[6]

He abolished hospital and educational fees and reverted privatization of social insurance, previously started by Hungarian socialists. He also expanded the welfare state — but only for the rich, while the rest have to make do with its communal work program.

Bad things he did (and is still doing)[edit]

The era of liberal democracy is over.
—Orbán, 2018[7]

He took over the media. The public channels are almost all drinking the Kool-Aid already, now he's going after the private channels. He tried to introduce an Internet tax and only (temporarily) backed down after massive protest and even a piece[8] on Last Week Tonight forced him to. He is trying to stir up conflict between the Hungarian minority in Slovakia and Romania and other ethnic groups living in those countries. On a visit to Slovakia, he ignored the major Hungarian party (then in coalition with another party to form a government) and instead talked to representatives of a smaller Hungarian party more in line with his wingnut beliefs. He also claims the refugee crisis of Summer 2015 is "a German problem" and says "nobody would like to stay in Hungary."[9] Indeed. Orbán and his ilk have written a new constitutionWikipedia that basically enshrines the fiscally and socially conservative views of Orbán and his party into the highest law of the land for the foreseeable future. This is part of his ongoing campaign to remake Hungary as an "illiberal state", which has become Orbán's dream. He has repeatedly referenced Russia and China as models he wishes to follow.[10] The man is turning turned his country into a dictatorship under the justification that dictatorships make lots of money, apparently ignoring the small matter that the US and Germany, along with most of the world's most competitive economies, are democracies[11] and that Russia, like many other autocratic regimes, is a kleptocracy.

He also had a massive role in making the EU's refugee crisis far worse than it needed to be. His xenophobia (or cruel political calculation in a country whose second largest party is openly fascist) has driven him to order a razor-wire fence to be built along Hungary's borders, and his current policy involves stopping refugees and hauling them off of trains that weren't intended to stop in Hungary[12] which means Orbán is being needlessly cruel just for the evulz.[13] Much of his justification for this is a desire to "defend European Christianity" from the "Muslim influx".[14] In July 2022 he outright condemned race-mixing and claimed that European nations that have multiracial people are "no longer nations".[15] This has some unfortunate connotations for those versed in history.

Orbán, a former benefactor of George Soros, has waged a demonization campaign against Soros, a Jewish Holocaust survivor from Hungary, during his 2018 election campaign despite not having much real opposition.[16] To this day, he continues to use Soros as a scapegoat and a punching bag to justify his policies and bigotry.[17]

Anti-intellectualism[edit]

After Orbán became prime minister, he condemned public schools as "sites for liberal indoctrination".[18]:50 He then followed this up by nationalizing the school system.[18]:50

Central European University (CEU) is Hungary's premier university, and one that was founded by Soros. Orbán government has systematically attempted to crush the university by attempting to strip or remove government funding for research.[19] Orbán's ultimate goal would be to close the university entirely.[18]:50-51 To this day, he continues to use Soros as a scapegoat and a punching bag to justify his policies and bigotry.[20]

In 2019 under Orbán, the government took control of the 200-year old Hungarian Academy of Sciences, throwing into doubt the independence and quality of its future research.[21][22]

Racism[edit]

Due to rampant racism in Hungary against the Roma (and stereotypes of them being thieves) and some old and flattering photo of him in his youth,[23] many believe that he's secretly Roma, with most going as far as to claim that his original name was Viktor Orsós, but somehow not only changed his, but some of his long dead relatives' names to hide this fact.[24] The actual truth is that long before the refugee crisis in 2010, his party rallied on a platform that targeted Roma minorities, which was later implemented in some form or other, such as gutting social benefits for the unemployed, and lowering the school age from 18 to 15. Later Fidesz also gifted the very well funded religious schools the power of redlining, forcing Roma kids into the underfunded and catastrophic secular state schools.

Orbán and his party, Fidesz, have also engaged heavily in islamophobic[25] and antisemitic[26] fear-mongering, using this rhetoric during their campaign to get reelected. As Fidesz tries to paint Hungary as a white Christian country, Jews and Muslims are obvious common targets for their hateful campaigns. Orban has also dogwhistled to his supporters that Hungary is not a mixed nation. However, he later claimed that he meant culture, not race. [27]

Fascism[edit]

Orbán is arguably fully fascist because he embraces several of the aspects of Robert Paxton's definition: obsession with community decline, humiliation, and victimhood, nationalism, collaboration with corporates and elites, and support for anti-democratic violence against dissidents and his opponents. Orbán spreads xenophobic propaganda about Jews[28] and Muslims[29], claims that Hungarians are not a “mixed race people”[30], appeals to the mythical past of the Austro-Hungarian Empire[31], and claims persecution from an immigrant campaign somehow funded by George Soros[32]. He has abandoned democratic liberties by strengthening Fidesz's grip on the Hungarian government and destroying democracy[33], thus ensuring that they control the country and no other candidates or opposition can compete with or against them. He also supports authoritarian regimes such as Russia and China[34], due to looking to them for economic assistance. Fortunately however, since Hungary is part of the EU, the government there has limited Orbán's complete control of Hungary in some ways.[35] And Orbán (currently) has not invaded any sovereign territory like his ally Putin (yet).

Model for the American authoritarian right[edit]

Orbán's leadership style has been very attractive (particularly since the presidency of Donald Trump) to the more authoritarian-leaning, Dominionism side of American conservatism.[36] As Orbán saw eye-to-eye with the religious-tinged culture war goals of this group, this led to greater cooperation between some conservative American commentators and politicians and Hungary's government.[37]

For instance, in January 2022, Tucker Carlson released a hagiographic documentary on Orbán lionizing him, effectively acting as a useful idiot for Orbán in producing propaganda for his authoritarian regime.[38] In 2022, the Conservative Political Action ConferenceWikipedia (CPAC) held a special conference in Budapest, Hungary, and likewise featured Orbán as a guest speaker at a CPAC event in Texas.[39] American Conservative columnist Rod Dreher admired the policies of Orbán so much, he actually moved to Budapest in 2022.[40][41] One former National Review editor named John O'SullivanWikipedia even helped spearhead an American style Orbán apologist think tank (financed entirely by the Hungarian government) called the Danube Institute.Wikipedia[42] Reportedly both Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis have expressed admiration of Orbán as well.[43]

Orbán has repaid the favor in a soft-power strategy that focused on courting conservative American pundits.[44] The Hungarian government (with the help of Hungarian tax money) helped finance speaking appearances for Steve Bannon and Milo Yiannopoulos in May 2018, to the tune of $60,000.[45] In August 2021, a Hungarian education foundation paid Dennis Prager $30,000 in public funds to speak along with Carlson at an August youth festival.[46] Other figures hosted by Orbán and his institutions include Jordan Peterson, Jeff Sessions, and Steve Bannon.[42]

This cooperation has led to worries from some commentators that these Orbán sycophants desire to remake the GOP party in the illiberal direction of Fidesz.[38] Such commentary, in fact, is not just expressed from progressives, but also from more traditional American conservatives that reject Orbán's illiberalism.[47]

Many commentators saw parallels between the government of Orbán and the governorship of Ron DeSantis in Florida. This even includes conservative commentators like Dreher, who believed that DeSantis's "Don't Say Gay" law was modeled after Orbán's anti-LGBTQ efforts in Hungary, and wrote favorably about DeSantis' other homophobic and transphobic policies, glowingly comparing them to Orbán.[38][48] Other similar elements noted by commentators include crackdowns on political speech, punishing political opponents, assaults on higher education (with similar bullshit like "liberal indoctrination" to try to justify the attacks),[38] rubber-stamp legislatures kowtowing to every whim of the leader, and vilification of immigrants.[39] In April 2023, Katalin NovákWikipedia, the Hungarian president at the time (and a close ally of Orbán), met with DeSantis.[49]

Notes[edit]

  1. The party name was originally an acronym, FIDESZ, standing for Fiatal Demokraták Szövetsége (Alliance of Young Democrats).

References[edit]

  1. It appears Viktor Orban’s hypocrisy knows no bounds by Richard Field (March 4, 2015) The Budapest Beacon.
  2. 25 éve lett vége az ártatlan srácok korszakának (2018.01.10. 22:25) Index (Hungary).
  3. Coronavirus: Hungary government gets sweeping powers by Nick Thorpe (30 March 2020) BBC News.
  4. The Regression of Viktor Orban - How did Hungary’s prime minister go from liberal reformer to right-wing demagogue? by James Traub (October 31, 2015, 9:08 AM) Foreign Policy.
  5. Leading sector in Hungary: Automotive PricewaterhouseCoopers Hungary Ltd (archived from November 15, 2016).
  6. American Racist Richard Spencer Gets to Play the Martyr in Hungary by James Kirchick (Updated Apr. 14, 2017 2:41PM ET; Published Oct. 07, 2014 5:45AM ET) The Daily Beast.
  7. Liberal democracy isn’t dead after all by Max Boot (May 14, 2018 at 8:16 p.m. EDT) The Washington Post.
  8. John Oliver Hungarian Internet Tax Last Week Tonight via YouTube.
  9. Refugee crisis 'a German problem' says Hungary's Viktor Orban (Sep 3, 2015) euronews via YouTube.
  10. Europe’s new dictator - Hungary’s Viktor Orbán is making good on his promise to build an "illiberal state." by Colin Woodard (June 20, 2015 6:30 am) Politico.
  11. Global Competitiveness Report 2015-2016 World Economic Forum.
  12. Hungarian Prime Minister Tells Muslim Refugees 'Do Not Come' by Mark Rivett-Carnac (September 4, 2015 2:15 AM EDT) Time.
  13. Amid refugee crisis, Hungary prime minister says Muslims not welcome (September 3, 2015 11:50PM ET) Al Jazeera America.
  14. Migration crisis: Hungary PM says Europe in grip of madness: Viktor Orbán attacks EU policy, saying the influx of Muslim refugees poses a threat to Europe’s Christian identity by Ian Traynor (3 Sep 2015 06.09 EDT) The Guardian.
  15. Viktor Orbán sparks outrage with attack on ‘race mixing’ in Europe: Hungary’s far-right prime minister says countries where races mingle are ‘no longer nations’ by Shaun Walker & Flora Garamvolgyi (24 Jul 2022 11.46 EDT) The Guardian.
  16. Once-fringe Soros conspiracy theory takes center stage in Hungarian election by Griff Witte (March 17, 2018 at 4:13 p.m. EDT) The Washington Post.
  17. https://www.euronews.com/my-europe/2021/11/16/hungary-move-to-criminalise-support-of-asylum-seekers-infringes-eu-law
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 How Fascism Works: The Politics of Us and Them by Jason Stanley (2018) Random House. ISBN 9780525511830.
  19. Viktor Orbán’s War on Intellect: As the Hungarian prime minister systematically undermined his own country’s education system, one institution stood defiant: a university in the heart of Budapest, founded by George Soros. by Franklin Foer (June 2019) The Atlantic.
  20. https://www.euronews.com/my-europe/2021/11/16/hungary-move-to-criminalise-support-of-asylum-seekers-infringes-eu-law
  21. Hungarians protest over government overhaul of academic bodies Marton Dunai (June 2, 20198:47 AM) Reuters.
  22. Hungarian government takes control of research institutes despite outcry: But the international scientific community continues to protest against the takeover, saying it will harm science. by Alison Abbott (08 July 2019) Nature.
  23. Understanding Fidesz (December 29, 2013) The Orange Files.
  24. Az Orbán-Orsós Család Is Migráncs☺️ Ezért is fura a “tiszta fajú” beszéde. (2022 szept 19.) OLKT.
  25. https://www.haaretz.com/world-news/2022-01-02/ty-article-opinion/.premium/orbans-sinister-anti-muslim-hatemongering-now-threatens-lives-in-bosnia/0000017f-f365-d5bd-a17f-f77f084b0000
  26. https://www.politico.eu/article/viktor-orban-anti-semitism-problem-hungary-jews/
  27. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/jul/24/viktor-orban-against-race-mixing-europe-hungary
  28. https://www.politico.eu/article/viktor-orban-anti-semitism-problem-hungary-jews/
  29. https://www.politico.eu/article/viktor-orban-hungary-doesnt-want-muslim-invaders/
  30. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/jul/24/viktor-orban-against-race-mixing-europe-hungary
  31. https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/06/03/how-viktor-orban-turned-century-hungarian-history-into-secret-weapon/
  32. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/dec/05/george-soros-orban-turns-to-familiar-scapegoat-as-hungary-rows-with-eu
  33. https://balkaninsight.com/2021/01/14/hungarys-government-in-reality-controls-more-than-half-of-leading-media/
  34. https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/viktor-orbans-hungary-stands-with-china-and-russia-not-the-us
  35. https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/why-the-eu-is-getting-tough-on-hungarys-orban/2022/09/19/e108f0b4-3808-11ed-b8af-0a04e5dc3db6_story.html
  36. "The American right’s favorite strongman" by Zack Beauchamp, Vox, 2020 August 10
  37. "How the American Right Fell In Love With Hungary" by Elisabeth Zerofsky, New York Times, 2021 October 19
  38. 38.0 38.1 38.2 38.3 "Ron DeSantis is following a trail blazed by a Hungarian authoritarian" by Zack Beauchamp, Vox, 2022 April 28
  39. 39.0 39.1 "Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban provides template for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis" by Greg McGann, Gainesville Sun, 2022 August 8
  40. "what American Conservatives See In Hungary's Leader" by Benjamin Wallace-Wells, New Yorker, 2021 September 13
  41. "Goodbye, Louisiana. I Tried" by Rod Dreher, American Conservative, 2022 October 2
  42. 42.0 42.1 "Does Hungary Offer a Glimpse of Our Authoritarian Future?" by Andrew Marantz, New Yorker, 2022 June 27
  43. "Hungarian Prime Minister Shows Why American Right Embraces Him" by Rob Garver, Voice of America, 2022 August 4
  44. "Hungary’s Plan to Build an Army of U.S. Intellectuals" by Ana Luiza Albuquerque, Foreign Policy, 2023 May 19
  45. "Milo Yiannopoulos and Steve Bannon spoke in Hungary — it cost $60K, seemingly in taxpayer money" by Creede Newton, Mic, 2018 August 17
  46. "Hungary Paid Dennis Prager $30,000 For An Hour of Appearances at Far-Right 'Education' Conference" by Creede Newton, SPLC, 2022 January 13
  47. "Liberalism, Not Orbanism, Should Prevail" by Christopher Walsh, Catalyst, George W. Bush Institute, Spring 2022 edition
  48. "DeSantis, Magyar Of The Sunshine State?" by Rod Dreher, American Conservative, 2022 April 30
  49. "Viktor Orbán’s support for Trump seems to wane as ally meets with DeSantis" by Flora Garamvolgyi, Guardian, 2023 April 12