By Andrew L. Urban
Large protests around the country in recent weeks are the first open signs of public outrage at the shrinkage of democracy in Hungary. Angered by a proposed internet tax and the apparent corruption exposed by the US refusing visas to several Hungarian tax department officials, ongoing concerns over curbs imposed on smaller religions and press freedoms, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s FIDESZ party is facing its first major era of dissent.
Re-elected in May 2014 with what some international observers have called a manipulated landslide delivering 2/3rd of the Parliamentary seats, FIDESZ is now on the political nose not only in the US but Europe, where its membership of the European Union gives Brussels a window into Hungarian socio-political life.
The process of turning a liberal democracy into an illiberal democracy has been well orchestrated, according to several academic specialists.
On November 18, 2014, the day after a National Day of Outrage protest, one of Hungary’s most distinguished scholars of constitutional law, Gabor Halmai, the director of the Institute for Political and International Studies at Eötvös Lóránd University, Budapest, and director of the Hungarian Human Rights Information and Documentation Center. Currently a visiting research scholar at Princeton University, he gave this interview to Benjamin Novak of the Budapest Beacon, an independent online English language publication (published by an American company.)
A few days earlier, on November 12, 2014, Budapest Beacon’s Benjamin Novak interviewed another Princeton Professor, Dr. Kim Lane Scheppele, Director, Program in Law and Public Affairs.
She told Novak: “What we have is a system in which Hungary has the appearance of constitutionalism, democracy, and rule of law, but no reality of constitutionalism, democracy, and rule of law. This is a constitution that can be changed at will by this two-thirds parliamentary majority that was engineered in an election that the OSCE said was not fair … Every time a law becomes inconvenient, the government changes it overnight.”