Hungarian PM Viktor Orban has openly vowed to turn the country into an ‘illiberal state’. Europe cannot let this happen.
Hungary’s Mussolini Vows to Make the EU Member an Illiberal State”, titles Newsweek. Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban has finally come in the open. At a recent rally of party supporters he has admitted that he is out to turn the country into an illiberal state. He pointed out that liberal western democracies cannot remain globally competitive, and that China, Russia, and Turkey should be taken as the example to follow.
These worrying statements are, unfortunately, backed up by facts. They follow years of increasingly restrictive laws in Hungary, which have endangered the independence of the judiciary, the media, and civil society, and entrenched the power of the ruling party, Fidesz.
In April 2011 a constitutional reform silenced the constitutional court, allowing the government to pass any legislation it sees fit. In the same year a draconian media reform placed public and private media under state tutelage, eventually leading to widespread manipulation in public broadcasting, direct censorship and closure of opposition media, and attempts to bankrupt international TV channel RLT for its criticism of the regime. As a result fear has returned to Hungarian society. Relatives and friends of opposition figures became unemployable, a number of NGOs receiving foreign aid were blacklisted, and international donors such as the Norwegian Civil Fund threatened with suspension of their operating license.
International institutions have been increasingly vocal. The Council of Europe has written to the Hungarian Prime Minister to share its concern over the NGO audit. And the OSCE, after having already attacked the new media law, demonstrated in a recently published report that media coverage shows “significant bias” towards the ruling party.