Hungarian premier Viktor Orbán has used the COVID-19 pandemic as a pretext to silence his critics, even as he endorses street mobilizations by the organized far right. But these aren’t just the pathologies of a country with weak democratic traditions — they’re an extreme version of a reactionary turn happening across the West.
Imre Szijarto is a Hungarian activist, writer, and MA student at the Central European University. He is a founding member of the Szabad Egyetem student activist group in Hungary.
Just in the last week, the Hungarian government has banned gender reassignment, legislated jail terms for fake news, and put government stooges in control of theaters. Viktor Orbán’s administration has done all this in the name of the response to coronavirus — exploiting its emergency powers to silence dissent and demonize minorities.
Each February, Europe’s neo-Nazis converge in Budapest for the “Day of Honor,” a celebration of the SS’s record in Hungary. For years, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has been erasing all traces of antifascism from the official national history — and now the uniformed marchers enjoy government endorsement.
The election of a Green mayor in Budapest is a rare setback for Hungary’s far-right premier Viktor Orbán. But if it’s going to mount a sustainable challenge to his rule, the opposition needs to start voicing the malaise of the majority of Hungarians.
Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz party began life as a liberal opposition to Hungary’s Soviet-backed regime. But far from waging a generic fight for freedom, Orbán and his crony capitalist allies turned Hungary into the laboratory for a new far right.
The removal of a statue of the communist leader Imre Nagy is the latest effort by Viktor Orbán to erase all memory of the country’s left and valorize the far right.