Orban’s chilling demand: ‘reconstruct European democracy’


Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has issued a chilling message to EU leaders ahead of today’s crunch European Council summit, saying that European democracy must be ‘reconstructed’ in order to deal with the migrant crisis, according to media reports:

The controversial leader claimed the people of Europe wanted the flow of migrants stopped and migrants currently in EU countries to be sent back. He told press in Brussels: “This is the right time to launch a new period where we try to reconstruct European democracy,” he said.

A new report from the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights gives a flavor of the illiberal democracy that Orban has in mind. It highlights inadequate separation between party and state activities, and calls for reforms to the electoral process to guarantee a level playing field.

In the recent elections, “the main governing party enjoyed an undue advantage because of a pervasive overlap between state and ruling party resources, biased media coverage and opaque campaign financing regulations,” the report notes.

The OSCE recommends reforms to ensure “a fully democratic basis” for conducting elections, including the removal of “unreasonable hindrances” on civil society, and calls for a “public and inclusive” review of legislation, with an emphasis on freedoms of expression and association and access to information.

Orban’s government is taking an authoritarian populist stance to divert attention from its lack of policy solutions and incompetent governance, some observers suggest, noting that the anti-migrant laws are designed to mask the country’s dire social and economic problems.

In Hungary, backsliding on the rule of law has reached a tipping point, says former Belgian prime minister Guy Verhofstadt.

Orbán’s new “stop Soros” legislation, which makes it a criminal offence to assist migrants, coupled with a labelling of organisations working on migration issues reminiscent of the Nazi era, threatens to take Hungary and Europe back to the 1930s. Orbán, who has been busy building an illiberal alliance, with the assistance of Steve Bannon is intent on infecting Europe’s mainstream conservatism from within, he writes for the Guardian.

Members of the European Parliament’s civil liberties, justice and home affairs committee this week voted to launch the EU’s disciplinary procedure against Hungary, a legal process that could lead to it being stripped of EU voting rights.

Civil society groups reacted with dismay to the new laws, the FT adds.

The Stop Soros laws, along with moves this week to introduce a new court, showed Orban was “establishing his authoritarian system at full speed by curbing judicial and academic independence, civil liberties and the rule of law,” said Political Capital, a Budapest-based think-tank supported by the National Endowment for Democracy.

Credit: TNR

The Hungarian Helsinki Committee said the Budapest government, “instead of protecting refugees from prosecution, has decided to join the ranks of the persecutors”.

“Today, it is about refugees and asylum,” said Helsinki Committee refugee director Gabor Gyulai. “But tomorrow, it can be any other topic, any other actor. It could be someone who criticizes the horrible conditions of the Hungarian health-care system, for example.…

“If this happens in Hungary, it could happen in Poland, or in any other European country where governments feel unease about democratic checks and balances that control their power.”

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