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Zsuzsanna Szelenyi on How Orban Rose to Power

“Viktor Orban was different from everyone else in one way: he wanted it the most,” Zsuzsanna Szelenyi, Program Director of the CEU Democracy Institute Leadership Academy said in an interview with Telex.

The interview is based on her book, Tainted Democracy, which has recently been published in Hungarian.

“Every autocratic leader tries to organize the necessary resources for power around himself. Orban himself said in 2009 that to gain and hold power, you need money, ideology and votes. In fact, he was already operating with this master trinity in Fidesz in the 1990s,” she said.

“An important feature of Viktor Orbán's regime is that a significant number of political-economic elites have been enriched over the past decade, and they have a vested interest in seeing Fidesz win again and remain in power,” she added.

“The decline means that Fidesz's chances of building power are nowhere near what they were a few years ago. The primary reason for this is that by 2019, Fidesz had maximized the years of economic abundance, but failed to implement many reforms that would have been critical to the country's future and competitiveness, because the money went to building its own elite. There will be no more of this blessed state of affairs, no more free money coming into the country. In addition, by 2020, Fidesz had run out of steam in the European Union's bodies, and the situation has only worsened since then. The decline is also evident from the fact that Orbán has to constantly threaten the European institutions with a veto because he can no longer get what he wants through normal negotiation,” she argued.

“After the regime change, the commitment to improving democracy quickly faded in the inter-party struggles. What I find very serious is that by the 2000s there was a resurgence of moralizing, polarizing politics, where both parties thought that they deserved to lead the country because the other was the arch-enemy. This is extremely destructive of democratic culture. The new political generation has to do it differently,” she said.

Read the full interview (in Hungarian) here.