Power-Grab by Hungary’s Orban Requires Careful EU, U.S. Response

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has asserted his power over the past 18 months by reducing the influence of independent institutions and increasing that of his ruling Fidesz party. In addition to passing a new constitution, which went into effect on Jan. 1, the government pushed through laws consolidating power over the judiciary and the central bank, while also restricting freedom of religion and freedom of the press.

“Orban is trying to cement the place of the Fidesz party in the government,” said Balázs Jarábik, an associate fellow at FRIDE, a European think tank based in Madrid. “This democracy deficit could actually grow larger, and Orban is willing to isolate Hungary even more than he has already.”

These new laws, Jarábik explained, have led to changes in voting eligibility and electoral districts, tightened controls over press freedoms and limited official recognition to only a handful of the country’s hundreds of churches and religious associations. Regulatory offices have been created to oversee the courts and the media, Jarábik added, noting that the wife of a Fidesz party member is now responsible for regulating courts and naming new judges.

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