Saturday, January 07, 2012

Is Viktor Orban a Vladimir Putin?

If you don't know Viktor Orban, you shouldn't be embarrassed.

But the Financial Times reports that Mr. Orban's recent political actions in his native Hungary look remarkably (and uncomfortably so) like those used by Vladimir Putin in Russia.
Hungary’s prime minister presents a reminder – should anyone on this continent need one – of the familiar trajectory from economic chaos to political authoritarianism. The European Union has had two grand projects since the fall of the Berlin Wall: the single currency and the advance of democracy eastwards. The euro is now in serious trouble. Mr Orban sends a powerful message about the perils facing democracy.
This week saw the introduction of Mr Orban’s new constitution. Suffused with ethnic nationalism, it reeks of an ambition for one-party rule. It promises repression of personal freedoms within Hungary and, through an extension of citizenship to Hungarian minorities elsewhere, threatens instability in ethnically-diverse neighbours.
The constitution has to be seen alongside a slew of new basic laws and the gerrymandering of the electoral system. Together, they bestow inordinate power on the ruling Fidesz party. The prime minister can claim to have won the 2010 election fairly. Now he is deploying a two-thirds majority in parliament to deny opponents the same possibility.
The Independent adds that the European powers and their citizens ought to pay attention to what is happening in Hungary.
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 aclear enough warning. Perversely, it seems to have been a role model.

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