It’s now the Washington Post’s turn to denounce Prime Minister Orban’s increasingly autocratic government in Hungary, and rightly so: they say things such as “the government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban now more resembles the autocratic regimes of Russia and Belarus than fellow E.U. democracies”, and I couldn’t agree more.
Surprisingly, I see fewer and fewer voices from Hungary denouncing such outbursts in Western media as the work of some internationally financed (a code phrase for Jewish) liberal bolshevik cryptocommunist conspiracy.
I find watching Mr. Orban’s performance especially painful. For starters, I expect more from people whose first name I share. He is also almost exactly the same age as I am. For all I know, we may have run into one another in Budapest several times in the 1970s or early 1980s. I am trying to make sense of his autocratic tendencies, and the only explanation I can come up with is that he truly distrusts anyone who thinks differently. Since he views himself as a democrat, people who disagree with him must be antidemocratic by definition; therefore, paradoxically, in order to protect democracy he must silence his opposition. But who protects democracy from democrats? A stable system of institutions, that’s who, but unfortunately it’s precisely this system of of institutions in Hungary that Mr. Orban has very effectively dismantled in the past two years.
The damage will be lasting: even if Mr. Orban’s party were swept from power tomorrow, it will take decades to rebuild what he destroyed, grossly abusing his extraordinary parliamentary supermajority. I do not envy Hungarians who must suffer the consequences of Mr. Orban’s dilettantish by determined (a phrase attributed to a former Hungarian PM, Gordon Bajnai) economic policies, but I also do not envy future leaders of Hungary who will face the nearly hopeless task of rebuilding what the Orban government destroyed.