Another Orban Victory Will Entrench Authoritarian Drift, in Hungary and Beyond

Another Orban Victory Will Entrench Authoritarian Drift, in Hungary and Beyond
An election poster for Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban is displayed on a roadside next to an official government anti-immigrant banner, Miskolc, Hungary, March 31, 2018 (Sipa photo by Michal Fludra via AP Images).

In the current global battle between liberal democracy and autocracy, few countries have seen democracy lose ground more steadily than Hungary. It is there that hopes for the unstoppable expansion of democracy in the aftermath of the Cold War have been most decisively dashed by the rise of Prime Minister Viktor Orban and his populist party, Fidesz. They have declared open war on a Western-style, democratic society, which is why the world will be watching when Hungarians go to the polls this Sunday.

Ever since their surprise victory in 2010, Orban and his acolytes have engaged in an aggressive campaign to build, as Orban himself termed it, an “illiberal democracy.” But as they methodically tear down democratic safeguards, the “democracy” part of their illiberal project has created a system in which the challenge for the opposition looks all but insurmountable.

On April 8, Orban seeks to secure a fourth term in office. That would allow him to continue challenging not only his critics in Hungary’s opposition, but also the European Union and democracy advocates around the world. Orban has declared that 2018 will be “a year of great battles” against countries that he says want to bring Europe into a “post-Christian and post-national era.” As he has pushed forward with his agenda, he has praised the world’s leading dismantlers of democracy, including Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Not coincidentally, he has also thrown his support behind U.S. President Donald Trump.

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