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Liberals regard Hungary as a former democracy

June 22nd, 2020

A liberal columnist suggests that Hungary is no longer a democracy. A centrist critic of the government agrees with much of the criticism but deems that judgment exaggerated. A pro-government analyst believes threats to democracy are coming from outside the country.

In Heti Világgzdaság, Tamás Ónody-Gomperz criticises those who believe that a regime is democratic as long as the government can be replaced through elections. How can one be sure, he asks, that a government can be sent packing, when it has won several elections in a row, as in Hungary? The real question, he continues, is whether those elections are meaningful or not. He quotes a decision by the German Constitutional Court to reprimand the Interior Minister for having popularised his party’s policies in an interview with the Ministry’s own magazine. The state and its institutions, the court said, must be neutral in politics. Meanwhile, in Hungary, Ónody-Gomperz asserts, the government brazenly uses public resources to promote partisan propaganda. He maintains that by the standards of the German Constitutional Court, Hungary is thus not a democracy.

Magyar Hang’s Szabolcs Szerető suggests that opinions on the matter are irreconcilably extreme on both sides. One sees Hungary as a dictatorship, while the other believes it is the most perfect example of democracy. He recalls that the left-liberal opposition excelled in doomsday scenarios as early as 27 years ago when it suspected that the first democratically elected (right-wing) government would use military force to prevent the opposition from forming a government in case it won the elections. Despite such fears, he continues, all four changes of government have been smooth so far. He believes, however, that the law on spreading fake news during the health emergency signalled a negative trend in democracy. Although it didn’t authorize the persecution of ‘those who think differently’, several dozen people were interrogated by police. True, only 11 were actually taken to court and only one was sentenced. Nevertheless, Szerető thinks that the behaviour of the authorities moved Hungary further from what he would call ‘a normally functioning democracy’.

On Kossuth Rádió the number one public radio channel. political scientist Tamás Fricz suggested that democracy is actually jeopardised by international elites rather than by national governments which depend on popular support. Referring to recent international polls, he remarks that the public are still overwhelmingly in favour of democracy throughout Europe – but are increasingly dissatisfied with the way it works. Much of this, he claims, is due to the concentration of more and more power in the hands of transnational corporations and supranational institutions. People in charge of those form a special class which is largely detached from local communities, he continues. Their increasing influence and power, Fricz suggests, rather than the activities of the governments who are trying to safeguard national sovereignty, is the main threat to democracy in our time.