In Foreign Affairs online today, James Kirchick has an important report about the backsliding of democracy in post-Communist Hungary. The slim legislative majority attained by the party of P.M. Viktor Orban has dismantled checks and balances, moved to overturn constitutional constraints, and to give the ruling party control of independent institutions, including the media. Once a leading dissident in the Communist era, Kirchick reports how the perks of power have worked to move Orban to the ranks ofthe far nationalist right-wing. “Even the best o fus,” he was told by former US Ambassador to Hungary Mark Palmer, “can be corrupted by power.”
The creation ofwhat the PM callsls a “new, modern right-wing culture” include control of the press, the renewal of anti-Semitism, and praise for Hungary’s quasi-dictator from the 1920’s through 1944, Miklos Horthy. Nationalism, Kirchick writes, “has replaced the pan-Europeanism of the past.” Having lived through Nazism and then Communism, the result is that some peple began “to question the basic precepts of liberalism itself.” In Hungary, like Greece, there is a new rise of both left and right extremism.
Kirchick’s article is a reminder that to create real democracy, defeat of Communism is not enough. As Kirchick sums up: “Fkdesz[the ruling party]has…undermined the spirit of democracy, chilling speech and dissent…Viktor Orban- once the great hope of a united and liberal Europe- has failed the democratic test.”