Orbán: Hungary’s Strongman serves as a useful overview of Hungarian history since the fall of communism—after all, Viktor Orbán has been central to the country’s development since at least the late-1990s, when he was first elected prime minister. Paul Lendvai portrays him as ruthless, absolutely relentless in the pursuit of power, and, on many occasions, outright vengeful.
In Europe, liberal democracy is being attacked by left-wing and right-wing populists simultaneously. As developments in Spain—where a new government also came into power last week—show, this impression is misleading. Some of the new left-wing parties in southern Europe are signs not of a deepening crisis of representative democracy, but of a possible solution to that crisis. Whether that outcome will hold for Italy very much depends on the Five Star Movement, a still unknown and, in many ways, unprecedented entity founded on a complete rejection of both political parties and professional media as means to connect electorates and politics.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, long a pioneer in anti-liberal government in Europe and an admirer of Donald Trump, is making a wager that a crackdown on universities is the latest addition to the increasingly sophisticated repertoire of right-wing populism—with implications that go far beyond Hungary’s borders.
On one side of the new conflict are those who advocate more openness: toward minorities at home and toward engagement with the world on the outside. On the other side we find the Le Pens, Farages, and Trumps: close the nation-state off by shutting borders and thereby, or so they promise, take back control; but also, preserve the traditional hierarchies that have come under threat on the inside.
The rhetoric of the rapidly growing Alternative for Germany party and its supporters indicates a potentially profound shift in German political culture: it is now possible to be an outspoken nationalist without being associated with—or, for that matter, without having to say anything about—the Nazi past.
In 2011, Jarosław Kaczyński, the leader of Poland’s right-wing Law and Justice Party (known as PiS), announced he wanted to create “Budapest in Warsaw.” Since his party’s resounding election victory in October, the conservative politician has kept his promise. The new Law and Justice government has done everything it can to emulate the authoritarian course of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán: already, it has attacked the constitutional court, undermined Poland’s independent civil service, and set out to bring the public media under government control.
Réka Szemerkényi, Ambassador of Hungary to the United States: Jan-Werner Müller paints a rather distorted picture of Hungary. While everyone is free in their particular selection of quotes and personal interpretations, factual correctness is not a matter of choice.
Jan-Werner Müller: Ambassador Szemerkényi claims that my piece contains factual errors, but then fails to identify any. Instead, she attributes an argument to me that I did not make.
Until the refugee crisis, European politicians had largely turned a blind eye to Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán. Now, as Orbán explained in a speech to party faithful last month, the crisis has given him a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” to destroy Europe’s “liberal identity” and replace it with his preferred “Christian, national” one. This is a project that should disturb anyone who cares about the future of democracy in the European Union.