Leading article: Hungary retreats from democracy

Share
Related Topics

The Italian physicist Enrico Fermi once asked: Given the likelihood of intelligent life elsewhere in the universe, why haven't they made contact? "They are already among us," came the reply, "but they call themselves Hungarians."

The thrust of the joke was that this linguistically unique, geographically challenged central European nation had produced a stunning number of scientific and artistic geniuses given its diminutive size. But events of the past two years have given the quip a darker connotation. Under the pretext of completing the anti-communist revolution begun in 1989, conservative Prime Minister Viktor Orban has incubated an alien horror in the heart of Europe. His new package of legislation radically damages Hungary's democratic credentials.

Mr Orban, who was a dissident hero in the 1989 revolution, remains enormously popular, and with a two-thirds majority in parliament he can do pretty much what he likes. But it appears that he has not fully digested the lessons of the historic movement that brought down communist tyranny across Eastern Europe. You can bring in tyranny by the front door and call it the vanguard of socialism, or by the back door and call it restoring the nation's pride and independence and Christian values. But whatever its name, all Europe knows that once it has arrived, you are on a slippery slope. The stunted development of democracy in Putin's Russia, seen by Mr Orban as the arch-enemy, should have provided him with a clear enough warning. Perversely, it seems to have been a role model.

By slashing the independence of the judiciary, the central bank and the media, by gerrymandering constituencies and cementing loyalists in key positions for nine-year terms, Mr Orban is ushering in a new age of authoritarian control. His justification is that the socialists he dislodged from power in 2008 had brought the country to the brink of ruin. But inconveniently for Mr Orban, his own medicine is not making the patient better, and Hungary now faces a lively risk of going bankrupt. The hubris of a small, landlocked country, however brilliant and maverick, demanding to go its own wild way would be comical were it not so dangerous.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

(Senior) IT Support Engineer - 1st-3rd Line Support

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful IT service provider that has bee...

Wind Farm Civil Design Engineer

£55000 - £65000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Principal Marine Mechanical Engineer

£60000 - £70000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Principle Geotechnical Engineer

£55000 - £65000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A Russian hunter at the Medved bear-hunting lodge in Siberia  

Save the Tiger: Meet the hunters tasked with protecting Russia's rare Amur tiger

Oliver Poole
Save the Tiger: Meet the hunters tasked with protecting Russia's rare Amur tiger

Hunters protect Russia's rare Amur tiger

In an unusual move, wildlife charities have enlisted those who kill animals to help save them. Oliver Poole travels to Siberia to investigate
Transfers: How has your club fared in summer sales?

How has your club fared in summer sales?

Who have bagged the bargain buys and who have landed the giant turkeys
The best swim shorts for men: Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer

The best swim shorts for men

Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer
Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable