Trump Republicans look to Orban, Hungary as role model
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Perhaps it is a sign of the times that a visit to Hungary by an American television personality known for his provocations on race and immigration generated international media coverage. But the visit of Tucker Carlson, whose Fox News program has become a clearinghouse for far-right talking points and disinformation in the United States, shed light on how the brand of “illiberal democracy” Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has not only disappeared mainstream in Europe, but has also become increasingly attractive to the Republican Party of the Trump era in the United States.
Carlson is in Hungary as the guest of honor at a three-day rally organized by a state-funded right-wing foundation, the Mathias Corvinus Collegium. He filmed his show during his stay in the country, including an interview with Orban and a choreographed tour of the border fence with Austria that Orban built at the height of the European migrant and refugee crisis of 2015 .
Orban’s attacks on judicial independence, press freedom and LGBT rights during his 11 years in power have become a model for other governments in Eastern Europe, especially Poland. . And his anti-immigrant stances and harsh verbal attacks on migrants and refugees put him on the right side of populist leaders – and television personalities – on both sides of the Atlantic. He was invited to the White House in May 2019 by former President Donald Trump, and he was the second European leader welcomed to the UK by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson after Brexit.
The appeal is not surprising. Orban’s coalition of social-conservative, rural and religious voters is surprisingly similar to the political base supporting Law and Justice in Poland and Donald Trump in the United States. It also looks like similar coalitions supporting the authoritarian and illiberal governments of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Orban’s coalition of social-conservative, rural and religious voters is surprisingly similar to Donald Trump’s political base in the United States.
But those same policies hailed by European admirers of Carlson and Orban put him in the crosshairs of human rights defenders and the European Union. For years, however, the EU has done little more than an oral argument with Orban, reluctant to invoke the so-called nuclear option of suspending Hungary’s voting rights under Article 7 of the Treaty. of the EU. Although Brussels finally triggered the mechanism three years ago, the efforts have continued hesitantly since then and are ultimately unlikely to lead to anything, given that Poland – also targeted by an Article 7 procedure – can veto any sanction, which requires consensus. More cynical critics of the EU have observed that the Hungarian delegation to the European Parliament has long served as a valuable voting bloc in the center-right European People’s Party group.
More recently, the EU appears to have become more determined to hold the Orban government accountable for its disregard for the EU’s rule of law standards and obligations, particularly with regard to recently passed legislation that assimilates homosexuality to pedophilia and prohibits the broadcasting of television programs containing LGBT themes during family programming hours. The most recent EU budget, negotiated in July 2020, made the disbursement of EU funds conditional on respect for the rule of law, although the conditionality mechanism is subject to judicial review. And Brussels has refused to release funds from its Hungary pandemic recovery mechanism, citing a lack of sufficient guarantees against corruption.
It may be too little, too late, however. When he first came to power in 2010, Orban was an aberrant figure in European politics, a lone figure defying EU standards. It has since achieved pioneering status, with a global fan base now extending to Fox News audiences in the United States.
Here are some recent and older WPR articles to put Orban and the allure of Orbanism in context.
- Last week, Tim Gosling looked at the steps the EU is currently taking to pressure Orban on rule of law issues, as well as the question they raise: why now?
- Earlier in July, Frida Ghitis explained why Hungary’s anti-LGBT law crosses a red line for the EU.
- In May, Frida examined the political cost that Oran and other Eastern European populists are paying to put crowd-pleasing populist measures ahead of good public health considerations in their responses to the pandemic of coronavirus.
- In an in-depth 2017 report, Zselyke Csaky explained how Orban reshaped the Hungarian media landscape to bring state media in line and “capture” the private press.
- In an in-depth 2014 report, Andrew MacDowall examined the democratic erosion displayed after Orban’s first four-year term, which had already raised many red flags in Europe and beyond.
- And in 2014, in an in-depth and premonitory article, Jan-Werner Müller examined the nature of populism as manifested by Orban and others, and the threat it had already begun to pose to liberal democracy.
Highlights of this week
With the end of the Tokyo Summer Olympics, international politics could resurface from the shadows, having taken precedence over coverage of the Games. While they don’t seem to have much in common at first glance, there are actually many parallels between the Olympics and United Nations diplomacy. From geopolitical tensions to the futility of trying to embarrass Russia, guest columnist Richard Gowan details the difficult, but also encouraging, lessons that U.S. Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield might learn when she will lead the United States delegation at the closing ceremonies. This weekend:
Yet as Linda Thomas-Greenfield watches the Tokyo Games come to an end, she can take comfort in the fact that the Olympics have survived for more than a century despite two world wars, the cold war and two global pandemics. At 75, the UN is four decades younger than the modern Olympics, but it has also proven to be a resilient institution. Olympic sports and UN diplomacy can be complex and sometimes seem a bit unnecessary. But both play their own part in keeping the world hectic.
After a brief period of uncertainty, Ariel Henry took office as Haiti’s new Prime Minister at the end of July, three weeks after the assassination of President Jovenel Moise. But he faces a difficult road as he seeks to cope with the country’s long-standing political instability and economic crisis. And as Vincent Joos explains in a briefing, if his first week in power is any indication, he will also struggle to reverse the authoritarian drift that began under Moise, in part because of a divided Cabinet, but also because of the inheritance. he inherits decades of international interference in Haiti:
Yet, as was the case with Moise, Henry has the support of the UN and the international community at large, which bears a considerable part of the responsibility for the dire situation in which Haiti finds itself. The current government is supported by the so-called Core Group, made up of representatives of the UN and the Organization of American States, as well as ambassadors from Germany, Brazil, Canada, Spain, United States. United, France and the European Union. … For many Haitians, therefore, Henry appears as another politician installed by foreign powers – a living embodiment of the country’s lack of sovereignty.
What’s on the tap
Coming next week we have:
- A column by Stewart Patrick on the enduring relevance of the UN Refugee Convention and the looming challenges it faces, which turns 70 this year.
- A briefing co-authored by Nicole Beardsworth, Nic Cheeseman and O’Brien Kaaba on Zambian President Edgar Lungu’s efforts to retain power in next week’s general election despite a deep economic crisis.
- A briefing from Andrew MacDowall on the response in Europe – or lack of response – to the murder of a Roma by Czech police in June.
- And in-depth reporting on a new generation of young activists in Singapore and what they mean for the future of managed city-state democracy.
Judah Grunstein is the editor of World Politics Review. You can follow him on Twitter at @Judah_Grunstein.