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Renata Uitz on Orban’s “Big Game”

“It's very kind of our EU friends to fund the Hungarian mafia state, but in the long term it's more important for the Prime Minister's grand political vision that his government is given international space and importance,” our Co-Director Renata Uitz said in an interview with Hungarian weekly 168 Ora.

She talked about the importance of the French presidential elections, because it will affect “how much gentleness the Hungarian government will have to show when negotiating budgetary resources under the rule of law procedure.”

Talking about the Hungarian government, she said that “for the past ten or so years they have been keen to keep the legal entities in limbo, be they ordinary citizens, NGOs or the entire opposition. This is an important feature of the way things are set up, not a systemic failure. Uncertainty and ambiguity open the way to the idea of power decisions, where freely elected authorities - electoral commissions or courts - can tell us who will be the losers.”

“In a normal parliamentary democracy, the opposition is not the enemy of the people and the nation, but a political force waiting to be governed. In an illiberal democracy, however, the opposition has a completely different function. To give the impression that there is a real role for several parties on the political stage,” she continued, adding that “for the time being, it is important, primarily because of the international legitimacy of the Orban government, to give the impression from the outside that it has managed to consolidate its power in a real campaign, in a real contest. This creates the democratic legitimacy that makes the Prime Minister a political actor that can be taken seriously at international level. So, in fact, it is important for him that the opposition does not disappear from the political scene and leave parliament.”

“The European Commission has had a toolbox for the last ten years or so, and it could have gone further. If it had really wanted to give a warning to a Member State that threatened the independence of its courts or was unfriendly to media relations, it could have done more than just make symbolic gestures to warn that the European Union is a club of democracies,” she argued.

Read the full interview (in Hungarian) here.

Photo: Annika Haas (EU2017EE) / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 2.0
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