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Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban at a polling station for the European election, Budapest. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban casts his vote at a polling station for the European Parliament election, Budapest, May 26, 2019 (MTI photo by Szilard Koszticsak via AP).

How Hungary’s Orban Puts Democratic Tools to Authoritarian Use

Monday, June 10, 2019

In his visit to the White House last month, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who proudly describes himself as an illiberal democrat, did what every good populist does: He explained that he had a mandate from the people. “From the people, by the people, for the people. That is the basis for the Hungarian government,” he said when asked about democratic backsliding in his country.

Like other populist leaders, Orban uses a number of tactics to back up his claims: sidelining the media to quell critics, whipping up perceived threats from migrants, refugees and others from abroad, and, like other euroskeptics, casting the European Union as a bogeyman. One less-documented item in Orban’s toolkit, which is cast in a seemingly democratic sheen, is his use of national consultations—soliciting citizen feedback on government policies or regulations through surveys and opinion polls. ...

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