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Zsuzsanna Szelenyi on How Orban Built His Illiberal State

“The institutional framework for democracy is formally still there, but Orban’s government gave up on democratic norms and used government power to capture the institutions, which are not fulfilling their roles as checks and balances,” Zsuzsanna Szelenyi, Program Director of the CEU Democracy Institute Leadership Academy writes in her article in The New Republic.

She describes the journey of Fidesz, Viktor Orban’s party from a liberal, alternative organization to a right-wing one. “I returned to Hungarian politics in 2012 and became a member of Parliament two years later, representing a new centrist-liberal party. I witnessed firsthand how Orban took revenge for his previous defeats and developed the perfect playbook of votes, ideology, and money to change Hungary’s democracy into an illiberal system, to ensure that he would win the elections again and again,” she writes, detailing all these steps.

“Whereas Orban propagates a Christian-conservative culture war, ultimately he is building an autocratic state,” she argues, adding that “by mobilizing even the extreme right groups, he successfully built a political tribe, and when he finally returned to power, he mobilized law and state resources to humiliate civil society, and to demonize, ridicule, and ultimately cripple his opposition.”

“It is timely to ask if Hungary is still a democracy or not. Can its people peacefully change their leaders, if they want to? Is a peaceful handover of power possible? Could another government lead the country effectively?,” she asks.

Read the full article here.

Photo: European Union, 2015 / Lieven Creemers