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 […]
Central & Eastern Europe Archive
Governing With the Far Right Cost Austria’s Kurz His Job. Why Is He Still So Popular?
VIENNA—In a bizarre showing of defiant support late last month, about 200 people cheered on the man who’d just become the briefest chancellor in Austria since 1945. “Stand up for Sebastian,” the crowd chanted, their words subdued by loud music, the rain, and the uncertainty of the political future. Austria’s Parliament had voted that Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and his entire Cabinet be dismissed and replaced with a caretaker government until fresh elections in September. Despite his high approval ratings, Kurz became the first chancellor to be disposed of by Parliament in more than seven decades. At age 31, Kurz had […]
PRAGUE—An estimated 50,000 protesters rallied in Prague’s iconic Wenceslas Square in mid-May—the center of 1989’s Velvet Revolution and the earlier anti-communist revolt in 1968—amid rising fears that the Czech Republic could follow neighboring Hungary and Poland in sliding toward authoritarian rule. The mass protest marked a fourth week of growing demonstrations, kicked off by the surprise announcement on April 18 that an ally of billionaire Prime Minister Andrej Babis would take over as the justice minister, just a day after Czech police had recommended that Babis be prosecuted for fraud. The protesters worry that the previous justice minister, Jan Knezinek, […]