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Row over “illiberal state” continues

July 30th, 2014

The press and the internet are literally aflame with passionate comments on the Prime Minister’s announcement that he is about to build an “illiberal state”, since liberal democracy is in decline, as a result of the financial crisis of 2008.

In the third Népszabadság Op-ed column within two days on Viktor Orbán’s speech about the end of liberal democracy (see BudaPost, July 29), Gábor Horváth likens the Prime Minister to interwar Italian fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, and explains that there is no such a thing as an ‘illiberal democracy’. He dismisses Mr Orbán’s assurances that he does not deny the basic values of liberalism, since he interprets the message of the speech as a denial “of the key achievement of western civilisation”. Mussolini’s example is not a real option, he adds, and suspects that the Prime Minister will have to confine himself to “a softer form of dictatorship”.

On HVG online, Miklós Tallián defends liberalism against both the Prime Minister and his anti-market leftist critics. He rebukes their main argument, that public ownership of key services is the best way to serve the welfare of the populace. He also rejects Mr Orbán’s statement that the latest financial crisis was caused by liberalism. In fact, he contends, the financial bubble was burst by unrealistically cheap mortgage loans with public guarantees in the background. The “third road” (neither communist nor capitalist), he warns, inevitably “leads to the third world”.


In his Magyar Hírlap editorial, Gyula T. Máté pokes fun at “alarmist” left-liberal opinion makers and politicians who accuse the Prime Minister of abolishing democracy in Hungary. In reality, he says, Victor Orbán didn’t utter one single word about dismantling democracy. He merely said that the form of capitalism introduced after the regime change is now unacceptable for most Hungarians. Nor did he “swear allegiance to Vladimir Putin”. He just told his audience that it would be a mistake not to take China or Russia into account “and refuse to learn what is useful (there)”.

In the same daily, economist László Bogár defends the concept of “illiberal democracy” against critics, whom he sees as warriors on one side of “a relentless global verbal civil war” being waged in order to take “public speech under control”. Liberal discourse has been the rule so far, and Bogár believes that this amounted to a kind of dictatorship until 4 years ago, when the Fidesz government started challenging “at least its most destructive consequences”. No wonder liberals are outraged, he concludes – that is simply a natural “immune reaction” on their part.



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