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Hungary’s Moribund Democracy

Budapest Hungaryby Dr. Miklos Radvanyi & Dr. Istvan Molnar

The results of the latest national elections in Hungary on April 6, 2014, proved that history in this ancient land of the Magyars only moves in one direction, namely, backwards. Nowhere in central and eastern Europe are the legacies of the painful defeats of two world wars, the idiotic governance of Miklos Horthy, the catastrophic alliance with Nazi Germany, and the destructive communist dictatorship so unresolved as in this country. For this reason, Hungary unites the three sicknesses that obstruct the future; confused submersion under the nation’s bloody history, desperation about the perceived individual and collective hopelessness, and an all-consuming hatred that is being released spontaneously as well as systematically, in the form of chauvinism, xenophobia, and sheer materialistic envy.

Even a quarter century of independence could not heal this crisis of society. As a result, the political parties – there are only one of major and two of lesser importance –do not have a large following in the country. The governing party, the political joint venture of the Young Democrats and the Christian Democrats (Hungarian acronyms: FIDESZ and KDNP respectively) obtained 44.54% of the votes cast, but attracted the support of only 27% of the total eligible voters. 34% voted either for the Left or the far Right. 39% of the eligible voters did not even show up to cast their ballots. However, with this meager result, FIDESZ and KDNP garnered 133 (the fate of one seat is still unknown) of the seats in the 200 members Parliament.

Clearly, the elections were neither fair nor honest. The people, with few exceptions were passive and apathetic. The will of the people was grossly distorted and therefore their participation in the government remains fictitious. Neither were the elections free. A new electoral law followed by tendentious re-gerrymandering of the parliamentary districts, a restrictive media law, the forced acquisition of most of the media outlets by FIDESZ and KDNP, the intimidation of the media not under the control of the government, and the denial of advertising to the opposition, created a hugely uneven playing field.

In addition, the election results are also misinterpreted. According to the government’s narrative, they confirm the correctness of the policies FIDESZ and KDNP followed between 2010 and 2014. Also, the government points to the resounding defeat of the left-leaning opposition parties as further justification for its style of authoritarian leadership. Indeed, with its two-thirds majority, the government appears to be set to continue the rapid and radical transformation of the country’s political and economic life. The practical elimination of the Left opposition block from the political decision making process is the more pronounced when viewed in light of the significant election gains by the far-Right Jobbik party (“Better” in English). In this manner, the government most likely will maintain its uncontrollable and arbitrary domestic and foreign policies with subjective interpretation of Hungary’s national interests.

In this sense, Hungary’s democratic deficit is reminiscent of the past history of Europe’s communist and fascist dictatorships, which under the guise of radical change actually perpetuated their hostility to modernity and market economy. Judged by the so-called achievements of the previous four years, FIDESZ and KDNP are the great restorers and preservers of Hungary’s past fascist and communist dictatorships. In reality, under the pretext of political and economic centralization, the current and future Prime Minister, Viktor Orban, wants to do away with all vestiges of democracy.

The illusion that the hostility to the United States and the European Union and the recent embrace of Russia, China and even North Korea by the Hungarian government, could offer a way out of the political, economic and moral malaise is therefore extremely dangerous. Indeed, the uniquely Hungarian version of chauvinistic authoritarianism is provoking a real separation from NATO and the European Union that, in turn, only serves the nefarious objectives of Russia. Moreover, the overall situation in Europe is very tenuous too. The worldwide depression, the erosion of national and individual wealth, the uncertain future of the Euro, the sustained belligerence of Russia have all contributed to the emergence of countless political ideologies and parties that are already capitalizing on the population’s misery.

Thus, the Hungarian government is exacerbating the political and economic problems within the European Union. Currently, about 40% of the population is living below the poverty line. The hostile economic climate drives away foreign investors and the dearth of new jobs forces the youth the leave the country. If this situation will not improve soon and significantly, the general dissatisfaction of the people will surely increase. Existential insecurity, in turn, could lead to the continued growth of the undemocratic movements and parties within the country and throughout the region. This scurrilous opposition, covertly encouraged and supported by Russia, is attempting to divide, and ultimately destroy, along national, ethnic and religious lines, both NATO and the European Union.

Democracy and the principles of market economy can only be sustained if they are continuously developed and modernized. Protracted ideological and economic distortions and chaos caused by the Hungarian government could have long-term negative domestic and international consequences.