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Hungary described as a ‘classical liberal state’

July 25th, 2020

A liberal historian dismisses the suggestion that Hungary has become an illiberal democracy – as often claimed by both Prime Minister Orbán and his liberal critics.

In a long essay on Látószög blog, András Gerő writes that contemporary Hungary follows the main principles of classical liberal ideology. He explains that Western liberalism took root in Hungary in the 19th century, and after the 1848-49 revolution, the Hungarian legal system was based on the two main liberal ideals: limited government and respect for individual freedom. Liberalism in the country took a unique cultural and civilizational form, Gerő adds. In the 20th century, liberalism in Hungary was devoured by ethnocentric nationalism and Bolshevism – two extremisms that, according to Gerő, both grew out of liberalism. He thinks liberal freedom resulted in national self-determination, which then became a hotbed of nationalism, while Bolshevism, he suggests was a reaction to socially insensitive pro-market liberal ideas. Tthe transition to democracy in 1989-90 followed classical liberal ideas, he continues, and even today the Hungarian constitutional system is marked by core liberal principles – similarly to all constitutional systems in the European Union. Therefore, Gerő dismisses the suggestion that Hungary has become an illiberal democracy – as first claimed by Prime Minister Orbán in 2014 and since then by his liberal critics as well.

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