by Timothy Woods
He looks up to Vladimir Putin as a role model. He wants to turn his country into an “illiberal state.” European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker called him “the dictator.” Even John McCain called him a “neo-fascist dictator”. He is Viktor Orbán, the Hungarian prime minister, and if you thought the days of European dictatorships were gone, think again.
4 of Orbán’s batshit crazy policies
Let’s tax the Internet
Seriously, he tried to tax the Internet. By implementing a new law whereby users would have to cough up the equivalent of $0.62 per gigabyte used, Orbán wanted Hungary to become the first country to have a tax on the Internet. It failed after widespread protests against it forced the government to back down. These protests were the first real dissent against Orbán.
Let’s bring back the death penalty
Of course in the United States the death penalty is still in use, but in Europe it’s unthinkable. Actually it directly contravenes the European Convention on Human Rights. Not only would it be extreme to bring it back but also it would be against European law. What’s next Viktor, cutting off someone’s hands for stealing, Saudi-style?
Let’s kick out all immigrants
As part of the EU, Hungarian citizens benefit from the free movement of Hungarians across Europe. The Orbán government has spent heavily on campaigns to make non-Hungarians feel as uncomfortable as possible in their adopted homeland. Posters reading, “If you come to Hungary, you cannot take the job of Hungarians” were dotted all around Budapest. Not only that, Hungarian activists who defaced these posters were arrested for speaking out (paranoid military-junta style governance anyone?). If you thought that was bad enough, the Orbán government sent a questionnaire to 8 million Hungarians linking immigration with terrorism, which will almost certainly increase xenophobic sentiment in the country. It should be mentioned that Europe welcomed many thousands of Hungarians during the 1956 Hungarian refugee crisis, and there are hundreds of thousands of Hungarians living and working in Western Europe. Not that Orbán cares much about consistency.
Let’s change the electoral system to favor my party!
Orbán is the most popular politicians in his country. There’s no question about that. Kind of like Vladimir Putin is the most popular politician in his country...
Orbán’s party is (apparently) center-right while the left opposition is regarded as completely ineffective. Rather than form a united front, the left is too busy fighting itself, leaving Orbán with free reign over his country with no credible alternative in sight. Moreover he has a close-knit group of oligarchs around him who do as he bids, making his power more absolute. And when you are in such a powerful position, winning popular support is much easier - just ask Vladimir Putin, Orbán’s hero. But never one to rest on his laurels, Orbán amended the Hungarian electoral process, whose changes have overwhelmingly helped his ruling party, Fidesz.
These changes helped him to augment his power even further, winning a two-thirds majority at the 2014 general election. These are just some of Orbán’s gems. He sees himself as invincible, and up to now he hasn’t had any real check to his power. If the EU weren’t so preoccupied with Greece, the African immigration crisis and the looming British in-out referendum, they might get their act together and take action against Orbán.
The EU would not infringe on Hungarian sovereignty (despite Orbán’s ridiculous rabble-rousing claims to the contrary). However, he seeks to keep the best parts of the EU – free trade, access to the common market, free movement of Hungarians across Europe – while eschewing what he views as undesirable– complying with a human rights agreement and welcoming immigrants. He can’t have it both ways, and Europe needs to let him know that.