In line with the general rightward swing being witnessed in Europe, the latest neo-fascist dictator on which the spotlight is being shone is Hungary’s Viktor Orbán. He has caused outrage in the chambers of the European Courts with the recently reformed constitution introduced by his conservative party Fidesz.
Updated laws have given the central government new powers over the judiciary and the press among other areas. Divisions of power between the executive, legislative and judiciary have been removed, before which an increasingly censored media is now beginning to revolt. Add to this a highly impartial judicial system has been steadily removing the rights of the Hungarian Roma community. Such occurrences have left the ex-Soviet territory resembling the very oppressive regime Orbán so fervently fought against in his youth.
…55% of the working-age population currently occupies a job…
Fidesz won a landslide victory as little as 20 months ago, with two-thirds of a parliamentary majority. It came to power in the context of a weak opposition and at a time when the country itself had the lowest employment rate in the whole of the EU. However, after having made so many promises little has changed. Only 55% of the working-age population currently occupies a job and contributes to tax, while unemployment remains at a perilous 11%. Very much a part of the current climate of crisis and the European doctrine of austerity, the government has been slashing public sector services and welfare. Given the political turfings out that took place in Italy and Greece, Orbán and his government will most probably have taken heed of market powers and influences over national decision-making.
Faced with resistance from the EU and the IMF, the country has been backtracking on its previous belligerence regarding changes to the new constitution. With a fine blackmailing package of some €15-50 billion, economists believe that Orbán has no other choice than to back down to their demands. The political bargaining chips of these bodies have been further strengthened by two ratings agencies declaring Hungary’s bonds to be “trash” at the end of last year, in the midst of which the country’s currency the forint continues to plunge in value.
…large protests of some 30,000 or more took place in Budapest…
In the trend of other such movements as 15M in Spain, which rejects institutionalised parties, the government is now facing a wave of protest. On 6 January hunger strikes led by media men and women from the state’s main broadcaster reached their 26th night of subsistence on soup and water. Within the same week, large protests of some 30,000 or more took place in Budapest, previous to which members of the opposition had participated in such stunts of civil disobedience as self-chaining to the gates of parliament. Protestors argue that these acts are emerging as a result of the systematic deconstruction of the democracy.
The situation in Hungary flags up larger issues and contradictions within the EU itself though. The fact that a member state was able to jeopardise the very foundations of democratic rights and go largely unnoticed, may only signal the end for an already waning project. While the EU’s top ministers have been embroiled in their own financial problems, Orbán is but one example of a regime amending fundamental human rights while the global gaze is turned by the economic crisis. And so another domino is added to lists of exasperated European communities pushing for the reform of decaying structures.
Image courtesy of Viktor Orbán