The Demise of People’s Freedom

Final issue of Népszabadság (photo:

Final issue of Népszabadság (photo:

On October 8, 2016, Mediaworks Hungary, the owner of the influential opposition print and online newspaper Népszabadság (People[‘s] Freedom), announced unexpectedly that it had suspended publication of the newspaper effective immediately.

The Vienna Capital Partners-owned Mediaworks Hungary attributed the decision to discontinue publication of the newspaper to the fact that “The circulation of Népszabadság has fallen 74 percent over the past ten years, that is, by over 100,000 copies [per day]. As a consequence, the newspaper has generated losses of more than five billion forints since 2007 and has likewise accrued significant losses this year” (source in Hungarian).

However, referring to the previously rumored attempt of pro-government business interests close to oligarch Lőrinc Mészáros (source in Hungarian) to acquire Mediaworks Hungary, the editors of Népszabadság published the following post on the newspaper’s Facebook page after receiving notification via motorcycle courier that they had been “exempted from their obligation to perform work” for the newspaper (source in Hungarian):

Dear Followers! The editors of Népszabadság learned at the same time as the general public that the newspaper has been shut down with immediate effect. Our first thought is that this is a putsch. We will be in contact soon.

Demonstrators protest the suspension of Népszabadság's publication (photo:

Demonstrators protest the termination of Népszabadság (photo:

The employees of Népszabadság had already taken their personal belongings home after having been told that they would move back to the newspaper’s former headquarters in Budapest on October 10. The editors of Népszabadság stated on the newspaper’s Facebook page: “As you know, over the weekend Népszabadság would have moved. Instead they shut us out of our workplace.”

Several thousand people participated in a demonstration in front of the Hungarian Parliament Building in Budapest on the evening of October 8 to protest the presumed pro-government acquisition of Mediaworks Hungary, while officials from all of the opposition parties—including radical nationalist Jobbik—have condemned the termination of Népszabadság as a further blow to media plurality in Hungary (source in Hungarian).

Newspaper stand in Budapest on October 10, 2016:"Freedom of the Press has Ended in Hungary" (photo: Népszabadság Facebook page).

Newspaper stand in Budapest on October 10, 2016:”Freedom of the Press Has Ended in Hungary” (photo: Népszabadság Facebook page).

Opposition websites speculate that the Austrian-owned Mediaworks Hungary discontinued publication of Népszabadság in order to eliminate the 60-year-old former daily of the Hungarian Socialist Workers’ Party  from its portfolio in preparation for the company’s sale to either Duna Aszfalt or Opimus Press, the owners of which maintain close links to the government of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán (source in Hungarian).

According to this hypothesis, the primary purpose of this acquisition would be to transform the 13 regional dailies that operate under the ownership of Mediaworks Hungary—newspapers that had daily circulation of more than one million copies in the second quarter of 2016—into vehicles for the dissemination of pro-government news and propaganda (sources A and B in Hungarian)

The disappearance of Népszabadság and its online edition leaves Hungary with no major liberal daily newspapers and just three significant liberal news websites—, and

Update: On October 25, 2016, Opimus Press—an offshore-owned company over which Lőrinc Mészáros reportedly exercises either indirect or direct influence—purchased Mediaworks Hungary from Vienna Capital Partners for an undisclosed price (sources A and B in Hungarian).  According to opposition websites, Opimus Press appointed Gábor Liszkay—the owner of the pro-government daily Magyar Idők—to serve on the board of directors of Mediaworks Hungary (source in Hungarian).


Referendum Homestretch on Hungarian Television

Below are screenshots taken from programs broadcast on the M1 news channel of state-run Hungarian Television from 3:00 p.m. until 6:30 p.m. on October 2, 2016—that is, until half an hour before the closing of polls in Hungary’s referendum on European Union migrant-resettlement quotas (see Hungary’s 2016 Referendum on European Union Migrant Resettlement Quotas and The Referendum That Couldn’t Fail).

Aside from intermittent weather bulletins and a report on the new leadership of the U.K. Labour Party, newscasts and programs broadcast on M1 during this three-and-a-half-hour period dealt with just two issues—the referendum results and migration.

The screenshots are from the various reports on migration. Note that in 2013, the National Assembly approved an amendment to Hungary’s electoral laws that eliminated campaign silence (source in Hungarian).

Click on any screenshot to see gallery view.

Sources: screenshots 1 and 2 (00:25 and 7:31, respectively); screenshots 3, 4 and 5 (0:11, 21:40 and 25:59, respectively); screenshot 6 (0:09); screenshots 7 and 8 (0:08 and 13:54, respectively); screenshots 9,10 and 11 (0:09, 9:05 and 9:38, respectively); screenshots 12 and 13 (5:53 and 10:24, respectively); screenshots 14, 15 and 16 (17:58, 21:46 and 25:14, respectively).


The Referendum That Couldn’t Fail

In February 2016, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán initiated a referendum in Hungary asking voters to respond to the following question (source in Hungarian):

Do you want the European Union to be able to mandate the obligatory settlement of non-Hungarian citizens in Hungary even without the approval of the [Hungarian] National Assembly?


Prime Minister Viktor Orbán speaks to supporters following the referendum on the European Union migrant-resettlement quota (photo:

This question refers specifically to the resettlement of 1,294 Syrian, Iraqi and Eritrean refugees from Italy and Greece to Hungary as part of a European Union plan adopted in September 2015 (see 2016 Referendum on European Union Migrant Resettlement Quotas).

The result of the referendum in terms of approval or rejection of the European Union migrant-resettlement quota for Hungary was never in doubt: opinion polls consistently showed that the number of voters who rejected the quota was many times larger than the number of voters who accepted it (see “Opinion Polls” section of the relevant Wikipedia article).

The only question was: would voter turnout exceed the 50-percent threshold required for the referendum to be considered legally valid?

This combination of factors impelled most voters who opposed the Orbán government’s initiative, regardless of whether they supported the European Union resettlement quota or not, to either boycott the referendum or to cast invalid ballots in the hope of preventing turnout from reaching the required 50-percent validity threshold.

However, the boycott/invalid-ballot strategy entailed the drawback of ensuring that referendum would produce a landslide victory for the “no” votes rejecting the resettlement quota.

The Orbán government was clearly prepared to emphasize the aspects of the referendum results that best served its political interests—the voting outcome, the turnout, or both—and to take legislative action of some kind to prevent the European Union from resettling migrants in Hungary regardless of the specific result.


“Let’s Not Take a Risk! Vote No! October 2”: Orbán government anti-quota referendum sign in Budapest (photo: Orange Files).

On September 22, Prime Minister Orbán said in an interview: “If it [the referendum] is successful and of convincing strength, then it will produce steps of a different nature than if it is turns out to be scrawnier. This is why it isn’t worth speculating now. Although naturally the referendum will have consequences in terms of public law” (source in Hungarian).

The final results of the October 2 “Referendum against Compulsory Resettlement” permitted the Orbán government to emphasis only the outcome: 98.3 percent of those who cast valid ballots in the plebiscite voted “no” to the EU migrant-resettlement quota, while only 1.7 percent voted “yes.” The Orbán government referred only indirectly to the fact that voter turnout for the referendum was only 40.4 percent, nearly 10 percentage points below the validity threshold (source in Hungarian).

Thus the Orbán government’s intensive, seventh-month propaganda campaign, which included ubiquitous billboard signs, electronic- and print-media advertisements and brochures exhorting the electorate to vote “no” in the referendum—a campaign that the opposition website Átlászó.hu estimated cost 15 billion forints (48.7 million euros)—had no apparent effect on the outcome of the referendum, serving only to further elevate political tension in Hungary to nearly hysterical heights (see The Phony Realist).

And the referendum itself, in practical terms, was virtually meaningless: the speech that Prime Minister Orbán delivered in Budapest following the close of polls on October 2 could have been written six months ago as one of just two possible versions—that emphasizing the overwhelming majority of “no votes” and avoiding any reference to voter turnout and legal validity.

Below is an Orange Files translation of Prime Minister Orbán’s post-referendum speech (see video of speech in Hungarian).

Esteemed ladies and gentlemen! 

[. . .]

Thirteen years after we decided in a referendum by a large majority to join the European Union, tonight we Hungarians again made our voices heard with regard to a European issue. We achieved a magnificent outcome, because we surpassed the result of the referendum on joining [the European Union]. A total of 3,056,000 voted to join in the referendum on joining [the European Union] and now we’re at 3,204,000 and we still don’t know most of the votes from Hungarians beyond the borders. And perhaps I should say here as well that some 15 percent more people took part now than during the most recent European parliament election. Thus the weapon will be pretty strong in Brussels as well. 

Esteemed ladies and gentlemen! 

First I would like to congratulate everyone and express my recognition to those who, feeling the gravity of the issue, participated in the referendum. They came and contributed to the fact that this enormous agreement of more than three million could come about. With regard to the participants, today nine of ten people voted on the side of Hungary, on the side of Hungary’s right to make independent decisions. I feel that we can be proud that as the first and until now only European Union member state [to do so], the Hungarians were able to directly express their opinion regarding the question of immigration. This was the proper, even honorable thing to do. This question was not yet on the agenda during the 2014 parliamentary election. Therefore, citizens were not able to take a stand on this and could not formulate their opinion. However, esteemed ladies and gentlemen, this is perhaps one of the more important questions of the years ahead of us, one that is about the future of Hungary and the future of our children and grandchildren. Who we live together with, what will become of our culture, what will become of our way of living until now, our economic system that we restored with great difficulty, what will become of our Christian roots. 

Esteemed ladies and gentlemen! 

A modern migration of peoples is taking place in the world. The waves of this have spectacularly and painfully reached Europe. The question now is, how will the European Union respond to this? The proposal of the union is that we let the migrants in and distribute them with obligatory force among the member states. And that Brussels decide about this distribution. Esteemed ladies and gentlemen, we Hungarians have today considered this proposal and rejected it. The Hungarians decided that only we, we Hungarians, can decide who we want to live together with. Brussels or Budapest, this was the question, and we decided that this right to decide lies exclusively with Budapest. Today we started down a path. And it will be a very long path. We took the first and most important step. Serious battles and difficult engagements await us on this long path. Now, following the celebration, we must do two things in order to assert our will. First we must invest the decision of the people with the force of public law. For this reason, I will place a proposed constitutional amendment on the National Assembly’s desk over the coming days. I believe that we must convey the will of the people expressed today. And we must place this in our Fundamental Law as well. The other urgent thing is to enforce the decision we made today in Brussels as well. 

My dear friends! 

Brussels stands before an important decision. Now it is the one that stands before an important decision. The European Union is a democratic community. Today in a member state 92 percent of the participants in a referendum declared that they do not agree with the intention of Brussels. The question is simple: can Brussels do this? Can the democratic community of European states force its will upon a member state, where 92 percent of participants are against it? I promise you, I promise all citizens of Hungary, that we will do everything under our power so that this does not happen. . . . 


Hungary’s 2016 Referendum on European Union Migrant Resettlement Quotas

Official name: Referendum against Compulsory Resettlemen(Népszavazás a kényszerbetelepítés ellen).

Date: October 2, 2016.

Question: Do you want the European Union to be able to mandate the obligatory settlement of non-Hungarian citizens in Hungary even without the approval of the [Hungarian] National Assembly? (Akarja-e, hogy az Európai Unió az Országgyűlés hozzájárulása nélkül is előírhassa nem magyar állampolgárok Magyarországra történő kötelező betelepítésé?)

Issue: The resettlement of 1,294 Syrian, Iraqi and Eritrean refugees from Italy (306 refugees) and Greece (988 refugees) to Hungary as part of a European Union plan adopted in September 2015 to transfer 120,000 such refugees from Italy and Greece to other EU member states over the subsequent two years (source in English).

Orbán government position: Rejects mandatory resettlement quotas.

Prime Minister Orbán on resettlement quotas:

“Only we can make the decision about who we want to live with. They can’t say this in Brussels and Brussels cannot settle people here whom we don’t want to live with.” December 4, 2015 (source in Hungarian).

“Letting the migrants in is hardly a correctable mistake. Moreover, [there exists] this question of principle: can somebody from outside Hungary tell us ‘you Hungarians must live with people you don’t want to live with.’ This doesn’t depend on whether this means ten, one hundred or one million people. Here we are defending our national sovereignty. If the Hungarian parliament decides to do so, then we will accept refugees, though we will never under any circumstances allow Brussels to force a quota system upon us.” December 24, 2015 (source in Hungarian).

Required voter participation for referendum to be valid: More than 50 percent of all eligible voters.

Required percentage of “no” votes for referendum to pass: More than 50 percent of all votes cast, not counting invalid ballots.

Consequences of valid referendum vote against resettlement quotas: No legal consequences. The purpose of the referendum, presuming that the “no” vote wins, is to provide the Orbán government with greater authority to resist the previously adopted and possible future European Union resettlement quotas (source in Hungarian). On September 23, 2016, Prime Ministry chief János Lázár said during his weekly press conference that “if the referendum is valid and successful, the government could propose amendment of the Fundamental Law” (source in Hungarian).

Legal foundation for EU resettlement quotas: Article 78 of the European Union Treaty of Lisbon: “In the event of one or more Member States being confronted with an emergency situation characterized by a sudden inflow of nationals of third countries, the [European] Council, on a proposal from the [European] Commission, may adopt provisional measures for the benefit of the member State(s) concerned. It shall act after consulting the European Parliament” (source in Hungarian).

In December 2015, the governments of both Hungary and Slovakia submitted challenges to the European Court of Justice claiming that the European Union migrant resettlement quota adopted in September 2015 infringe EU law  (source A and B in English).

Other EU members that reject the September 2015 resettlement quota: Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania (source A and B in English).

Potential EU fines on member states that  refuse to participate in resettlement plan: On May 4, 2016, the European Commission proposed offering EU member states that chose “to temporarily not take part in the reallocation” the option of paying a 250,000-euro “solidarity contribution” per each refugee not accepted under the resettlement plan (source in English). Under this proposal, the Orbán government would be compelled to pay a “solidarity contribution” of 323.5 million euros if it refused to accept Hungary’s quota of refugees in accordance with the resettlement plan.

Orbán government referendum campaign: In May 2016, the Orbán government launched an “informational campaign regarding the Referendum against Compulsory Resettlement.” The government’s referendum campaign has been divided into three phases:

first, the display of billboard signs throughout Hungary bearing the following text (see sign):

Let’s Send Word to Brussels so that Even They Understand It! (Üzenjük Brüsszelnek, hogy ők is megértsék!);

second, the display of billboard signs throughout the country with the following six texts (see gallery):

Did You Know?: More Than 300 People Have Died in Terrorist Attacks since the Beginning of the Immigration Crisis. (Tudta?: A bevándorlási válság kezdete óta Európában több mint 300-an haltak meg terrortámadásban);

Did You Know?: Immigrants Committed the Paris Attacks. (Tudta?: A párizsi merényletet bevándorlók követték el);

Did You Know?: Harassment of Women Has Increased Sharply Since the Beginning of the Immigration Crisis. (Tudta?: A bevándorlási válság kezdete óta ugrásszerűen emelkedik a nők elleni zaklatások száma Európában);

Did You Know?: Last Year One and a Half Million Illegal Immigrants Arrived to Europe. (Tudta?: Tavaly másfél míllió illegális bevándorló érkezett Európába);

Did You Know?: More Than One Million Immigrants Want to Come to Europe from Libya Alone. (Tudta?: Csak Líbiából közel egymillió bevándorló akar Európába jönni);

Did You Know?: Brussels Wants to Settle a City’s Worth of Illegal Immigrants in Hungary.¹ (Tudta?: Brüsszel egy városnyi illegális bevándorlót akar Magyarországra telepíteni);

and third, the mailing of 20-page brochures entitled “Information about the Referendum” (see gallery) to all 4.1 million households in Hungary and the display of and a new billboard sign (see sign), this one in Hungary’s red, white and green national colors, bearing the text “Let’s Not Take a Risk! Vote No! October 2 (Ne kockáztassunk! Szavazzunk nemmel! Október 2).

Cost of Government Campaign: The Prime Ministerial Cabinet Office spent 3.9 billion forints (12.6 million euros) on signs and television advertising broadcasting the same messages as those displayed on the signs (source in Hungarian). The brochures cost at least 100 million forints (324,000 euros) to print and mail (source in Hungarian). Thus the total cost of the government’s referendum campaign is at least 4 billion forints (12.9 million euros).

Position of National Assembly parties toward referendum:

Fidesz: no;

Christian Democratic People’s Party: no;

Jobbik: no;

Hungarian Socialist Party: boycott;²

Dialogue for Hungary: boycott;

Together—Party for a New Era: boycott;

Democratic Coalition: boycott;

Hungarian Liberal Party: yes;

Politics Can Be Different: neutral.

Two-Tailed Dog Party anti-referendum campaign: On August 15, 2016, the Two-Tailed Dog Party (Kétfarkú Kutya Párt), an extra-parliamentary opposition joke-party, began collecting donations via its website in order to finance an anti-referendum sign campaign. By August 28, the Two-Tailed Dog Party had collected around 27 million forints (87,000 euros), which the party said would pay for 450 large signs, 500 medium-sized signs, 200,000 small posters and 100,000 stickers urging voters to cast invalid ballots in the referendum (source in Hungarian).

The Two-Tailed Dog Party signs referring in ironic and absurd terms to those that the Orbán government had posted earlier in the summer began to appear on the streets of Budapest in late August (see gallery).

Likely outcome of referendum: According to a Závecz Research poll conducted for the opposition website during the last week of July, 53.9 percent of respondents reported that they intended to vote in the referendum, while 18.6 percent reported that they intended not to vote. A total of 40.3 percent of respondents reported that they would vote “no,” while 4.2 percent reported that they would vote “yes” (source in Hungarian).

According to another Závecz Research poll in late August, 54 percent of respondents reported that they intended to vote in the referendum, an increase of 0.1 percentage points compared to late July, while 18.8 percent reported that they intended not to vote, an increase of 0.2 percentage points compared to late July.  A total of 36.8 percent of respondents reported that they would vote “no,” a decrease of 3.5 percentage points compared to late July, while 5 percent reported that they would vote “yes,” an increase of 0.8 percentage points from late July. Only 0.9 percent of respondents reported that they intended to cast invalid ballots (source in Hungarian).

According to yet another Závecz Research poll conducted for in late September, 51.8 of respondents reported that they intended to vote in in referendum, down 2.2 percentage points compared to late August, while 24.4 percent reported that they intended not to vote, an increase of 5.6 percentage points compared to late August.  A total of 43.7 percent of respondents reported that they would vote “no,” an increase of 6.9 percentage points from late August, while 2 percent reported that they would vote “yes,” a decrease of 3 percentage points from late August. A total of 1.6 percent of respondents reported that they intended to cast invalid ballots, up 0.7 percentage points compared to late August. (source in Hungarian).

¹On August 29, 2016, the Curia (Hungary’s supreme court) rejected Hungarian Socialist Party Vice President András Nemény’s claim that this sign was misleading because the phrase “a city’s worth” implied that more than the actual 1,294 migrants would be resettled in Hungary according to the European Union plan and that referring to them as “illegal immigrants” obscured the fact that they were determined to be genuine refugees. The Curia based its decision on the premise that the “government’s statements voiced as part of the campaign at most orient [voters], though do not inform [them]” (source A and B in Hungarian).

²Hungarian Socialist Party (HSP) President Gyula Molnár stated on September 1, 2016 that “the HSP is prepared to support the government in the effort against the obligatory quota in the event that the European Union indeed is planning such steps” (source in Hungarian).

See: gallery of Orbán government referendum signs; gallery of Orbán government referendum brochure; gallery of Two-Tailed Dog Party referendum signs.


Röszke—One Year Later

Migrants travel along defunct railway in northern Serbia on September 15, 2015 (photo: Orange Files).

Migrants enter Hungary via defunct railway in September 2015 (photo: Orange Files).

Tens of thousands of migrants passed along the defunct railway from Serbia into Hungary near the village of Röszke on their way to Western Europe during the summer and early fall of 2015 before the Orbán government closed this final gap in the border on September 15 (see The Fields Are Speaking Pashto and The Curtain Falls Again).

Now, in early September 2016: vegetation has engulfed the rails and the thick trail of discarded belongings and refuse that the migrants left behind them. There is no visible evidence of the mass movement of people that took place along these tracks just one year ago.

Same location in September 2016 (photo: Orange Files).

Same location in September 2016 (photo: Orange Files).

In March 2016, the governments of the former Yugoslav republics through which the Orbán government’s construction of a fence along Hungary’s southern border diverted the Western Balkan migration route closed their frontiers to migrants (source A and B in English). On March 9, European Council President Donald Tusk announced that “irregular flows of migrants along Western Balkans route have come to an end” (source in English).

As a result: during the five-month period from the beginning of April to the end of August 2016, just 11,662 migrants crossed the Aegean Sea from Turkey into Greece in order to travel the West Balkan route northward, compared to 225,505 migrants during the same period in 2015 (source in Hungarian).

Afghan migrants in Horgos (photo: Orange Files).

Afghan migrants in Horgos (photo: Orange Files).

One encounters some of the few migrants who are still attempting to travel the officially closed West Balkan route in the small Hungarian-inhabited town of Horgos (Horgoš) in northern Serbia about two kilometers from the sealed border. About 100 young men, Afghans and a few sub-Saharan Africans (and no Arabs), sitting around in groups near a small grocery store in the center of town.

They have no money. And unlike the migrants of 2015, they are ragged and weary. Some of them  have gauze bandages wrapped around festering wounds. Most say they have been waiting at the border for over two months in order to gain admission to the transit zone in Hungary, where they will be officially registered as asylum-seekers. A group of French-speaking Africans say that Hungarian authorities are permitting 15 migrants to enter the transit zone each day—14 who are part of family groups and only one person traveling without immediate family members.

End of the line (photo: Orange Files).

End of the line (photo: Orange Files).

In the meantime, these migrants are sleeping rough and living on Red Cross humanitarian aid. And they have become camera-shy: only a single group of Afghans consents to be photographed.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, there were a total of between 250 and 350 migrants waiting in northern Serbia at the end of August to be admitted to transit zones in Hungary near Röszke and about 40 kilometers to the west near the village of Tompa  (source A and B in English).

In 2015, Hungarian police registered over 7,700 migrants entering Hungary via the defunct railway near Röszke during the final three days of August alone (source in Hungarian).


September 2016 (photo: Orange Files).

The last gap in the fence: railway track at the Hungarian-Serbian border.

September 2015 (photo: Orange Files).


From the Archives: Journalist Zsolt Bayer

BayerGoodZsolt Bayer is an influential pro-Fidesz newspaper editorialist and television talk-show host widely known in Hungary for his outspoken criticism of Fidesz’s political opposition and for the anti-Gypsyanti-Semitic and anti-migrant attitudes expressed in some of his published writings.    

Bayer has been one of the main organizers of the pro-government Peace March demonstrations that have taken place in Budapest since January 2012.

On August 18, 2016, Prime Ministry chief János Lázár presented Bayer with one of the most prestigious state awards in Hungary—the Hungarian Order of Merit Knight’s Cross (Magyar Érdemrend lovagkeresztje)—during a ceremony held at the Hungarian Parliament Building in Budapest (source in Hungarian).


Grew up and completed high school in Budapest. Attended Hungarian history department at the Eötvös Loránd University Teacher’s Training College in Budapest. 

One of the 37 founding members of Fidesz in March 1988. Was the party’s press secretary from 1990 to 1993.

Began career as journalist in Budapest in the early 1990s, working for several newspapers including the tabloid Kurír and the liberal-left daily Népszabadság.

Served as chief advisor to the Millenium Government Commissioner’s Office during the first two years of the first Orbán government, 1998 to 2000.

Prime Ministry chief János Lázár (left) presents Zsolt Bayer with a state award in August 2016 (photo: MTI).

Prime Ministry chief János Lázár (right) presents a Hungarian Order of Merit Knight’s Cross award to Zsolt Bayer in August 2016 (photo: MTI).

Editorialist at the pro-Fidesz newspaper Magyar Nemzet from 2002 to 2007. Worked at state-owned Hungarian Television and Duna Television and the pro-Fidesz commercial television station Hír TV between 2000 and 2007. 

Joined the Gábor Széles-owned newspaper Magyar Hírlap as editorialist and television station Echo TV as political talk-show host in 2007.

Turns 53 in 2016. 

See the following Orange Files translations of editorials that Bayer has published in the pro-Fidesz Magyar Hírlap since Prime Minister Viktor Orbán returned to power in 2010:

“The Same Stench” (Ugyanaz a bűz);

“Who Should Not Be?” (Ki ne legyen?);

“Can/May” (Hat/Het);

“Letter to Vladimir Putin” (Levél Vlagyimir Putyinnak);

“Unavoidable?” (Elkerülhetetlen?).


The Hungarian Illiberal Democracy


Prime Minister Viktor Orbán proclaims the illiberal Hungarian state in 2014 (photo: MTI).

Since coming to power in 2010, the FideszChristian Democratic People’s Party (KDNP) government of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has systematically dismantled the liberal democracy built in Hungary following the collapse of communism and established in its place an illiberal democracy (see Proclamation of the Illiberal Hungarian State).

This hybrid political system has preserved many of the fundamental elements and attributes of liberal democracy: free elections; independent opposition parties; the rule of law; observance of the human and civil rights of all citizens; and respect for civil liberties—the freedoms of speech, religion, association, assembly and, on a practical level, the media.

The semi-authoritarian régime established in Hungary—the first to emerge within the European Union—also has the following general and specific traits that within the country’s present political context are indicative of illiberal democracy:

Manipulates elections and state institutions in order to preserve political power. See:

National Assembly Election System

2014 National Assembly Elections

Crunching the Election Numbers

The Budget Council

Establishes legal, institutional and economic framework to stifle independent media. See:

Media Laws

The National Media and Infocommunications Authority

Media Services and Support Trust Fund (MTVA)

The Big Gun Swings into Action

Black Screen of Protest

A Few Thousand Malcontents  

Uses powerful internal-security force for political purposes. See:

The Counter Terrorism Center

Marching to Praetoria

The Dubious Plot

The Dubious Plot (2)

Uses mass mobilization as show of force. See:

Pro-Government Peace March Demonstrations

Not with a Whimper

The Soft, White Underbelly

First Peace March (photo gallery)

Sixth Peace March (photo gallery)

Impugns and obstructs the operations of non-governmental organizations. See:

The Orbán Government and EEA-Norway Grants

Invasion of the HomoVikings

Slaying the Gentle Giant

Operates government-organized non-government organization (GONGO). See:

The Civil Cooperation Forum (CÖF)

Making Politics of Migration: the Civil Cooperation Forum Signs

A Thousand Clowns

Rejects multiculturalism; opposes immigration. See:

Hungary and the Great Migration

Je Suis Viktor

National Consultation on Immigration and Terrorism

Patronizes racist and xenophobic journalists. See:

Journalist Zsolt Bayer

Who Should Not Be?

The Same Stench

Stage 3: Dehumanization

Too Close for Comfort

Will the Real Mr. Fidesz Please Stand Up!

Advocates policies similar to those of the radical-nationalist opposition. See:

The Jobbikization of Fidesz (Act 1): Reinstatement of the Death Penalty

Follow the Evil Twin

Taking the Ball

Conducts Statist Economic Policy. See:

Nationalization of Private Pension Funds

Orbán Administration Measures to Reduce Household Foreign-Currency Debt

State Monopoly on the Retail Sale of Tobacco

See: entire article.

The main objective of illiberal democratic systems such as that currently functioning in Hungary under the leadership of Prime Minister Orbán appears to be to concentrate power as much as possible within the formal parameters of democracy. The rise of this type of system, which also exists in Russia and Turkey and is under formation in Poland as well, poses a significant threat to the unity and political stability of the liberal-democratic European Union in particular and to the global strength and influence of liberal democracy in general.