Frank Füredi: The demonization of Hungary is the real threat to democracy

2018. 04. 19.

Last week, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz-KDNP alliance won Hungary’s 2018 general elections by a landslide, securing another two-thirds supermajority in Hungary’s National Assembly. The 70 percent voter turnout, an increase of nearly eight points over the previous elections, gives the government one of the strongest mandates in Hungary’s entire democratic history.

In an article published on Spiked Online, sociologist Frank Füredi says that the real threat to Hungarian democracy is not the Fidesz government but the absence of a serious and responsible political opposition. Without one, Füredi argues, no government can genuinely work effectively.

“If you only listened to Western media, you would think Hungary had become the heartland of fascism,” writes Füredi, who recalled how Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s critics compared a potential Fidesz-KDNP victory to the rise of Hitler in the 1930s. After a recent exchange with students at Budapest’s Central European University, Füredi found people seemed reluctant to accept the facts, rather believing their rector Michael Ignatieff, a staunch opponent of the governing parties. Ignatieff claimed Hungary is at a crossroads, choosing between a consolidated democracy or aligning with Putin and fellow authoritarian figures.

Opponents of Fidesz predicted a high voter turnout that could lead to Orbán’s defeat or at least the loss of his two-thirds supermajority. Ironically, neither of these scenarios became reality. Instead, the high voter turnout strengthened Fidesz’s mandate.

While most domestic players have acknowledged their failure, foreign critics continue to cast doubts on Hungary’s electoral system, calling it unfair. “The fact is, whatever one thinks of the Orbán regime, the election was won fair and democratically,” Füredi writes. These critics complain about the winner-takes-all concept, which decides who receives 106 seats out of 199 in the Hungarian National Assembly. Yet they forget that in the UK or the US, for example, none of the seats get distributed proportionally. If Hungary’s April 8 elections were conducted according to the UK rules, Prime Minister Orbán would have an 86 percent majority in parliament.

Füredi also calls attention to how western media outlets white-washed the far-right Jobbik party and granted them a “free pass to try and defeat the Orbán regime.” Meanwhile, they continued to label the Fidesz-KDNP alliance as far-right.

“One does not have to agree with Orbán’s policies,” writes the sociologist, “to understand that Fidesz’s victory represents a significant blow to the authority of the EU oligarchy.” The victory demonstrates that there’s an alternative worldview to the “Brussels dictum” in a Europe where politics is “alive and well.”