Hungary isn’t part of my normal beat and my ignorance about it is profound. Nevertheless, this recent long piece in The Nation caught, and held, my attention.
It explores how in four years Viktor Orbán and his Fidesz party have utterly transformed Hungary’s political landscape.
What is clear is that with his re-election, Orbán has consolidated a well-orchestrated constitutional coup that has rattled the European Union’s complacency about being a club of well-behaved democracies. Since 2010, Fidesz has rewritten the Constitution without engaging any opposition parties and has granted overwhelming and unchecked power to its party leader, who in turn wasted little time in wresting control of every state institution from opposition hands, entrenching his political allies everywhere, bringing the judiciary to heel and radically centralizing political authority. The Fidesz constitutional “reform” has spawned a Frankenstate, a form of government created by stitching together perfectly normal rules from the laws of various EU members into a monstrous new whole.
Nor, it seems, was any of this accidental.
Before the 2010 election, he gave an uncharacteristically candid speech, one in which he expressed his vision of politics. Speaking in Kötcse, a small village in southern Hungary, in September 2009, he criticized the “divided field of power” that characterized the country at that time, referring to the multiparty system with its competing ideas about politics. Then he dared to dream, predicting that “a large governing party with a central political field of power will be established, one which will be capable of formulating national concerns, doing so without continuous arguments, naturally representing these in its own way.” It would exist for at least fifteen or twenty years without conflict or contention, he promised.