Under the Spectre of ’33
Stop me when this starts to sound familiar.
In a time of grave economic crisis, a European nation holds a crucial election. The results find a nationalistic, rightist party sweeping into power with not just a majority, but almost complete control of the national legislature. The leader of the party first came to fame speaking out against the incumbent government, even going so far as to call for its overthrow. Once elected, things begun to turn sour. Minorities and political opponents first find themselves harassed, and later outright oppressed. As time goes on, the party begins to preach an irredentist manifesto, going so far as to claim citizens of all neighboring states that speak the same language should be in their borders. Finally, in a final push for ultimate power, the party and its leader go so far as to rewrite the constitution so that it enforces their viewpoints, rather than protecting their citizens against abuse of power by their government.
Germany, you say? Sure, this reads like a Shirer-esque narrative of the rise of the National Socialists. Rather, this is modern day. Led by Victor Orbán, the Fidesz party in Hungary has embarked on an eerily similar approach to gaining absolute power in the fragile eastern European state.
That a group like Fidesz was swept into power during an economic downturn is no surprise. The same thing has happened throughout most of the Western world. France, in the first elections after the beginnings of the global economic crisis, saw the right-leaning UMP win the presidency and the lower house, the National Assembly. In the United States, the Republicans made majors gains in the 2010 elections. While they are currently in a coalition government with the Liberal-Democrats, the British Conservatives made massive headway in the same year. The ultranationalist, far-right British National Party also saw an increase in votes that same year. Most recently, Spain elected a rightist party in their 2011 general elections.
So, if it is no surprise that a right-wing party was elected, why are people so worried about Fidesz? Well, to put it simply, Fidesz is not just another conservative party. Rather, they are an ultranationalist, far-right party with utter disregard for rule of law. Much like Hugo Chavez singlehandedly rewriting the Venezuelan constitution as means to his ends, Victor Orbán and Fidesz have begun a radical restructuring of Hungarian politics that have not only created massive domestic unrest, but raised concerns in neighboring states.
In late May of 2010, Hungary extended an unilateral offer of dual citizenship to all ethnic Hungarians living in neighboring states. Slovakia, which itself has 500,000 ethnic Hungarians as a result of post-World War I redrawn borders, decried the move as a “security risk” and immediately voted on a law that would strip any Slovak citizen of their citizenship if they received dual citizenship. In January of 2011, a media censorship organization was created with overwhelming support. Known as the NMHH, the body has the ability to monitor, evaluate and fine any media outlet that violates “public interests, public morals or order”.
It is of little consolation to anyone in Hungary that the body is overwhelming composed of strong Fidesz supporters, causing many to worry that the NMHH will simply silence political opposition to Orbán and his party. Indeed, many opposition media outlets have already been shuttered, much as opposition media in Russia has been silenced in recent years by state-run organs, intimidation or outright murder.
As Hungary continues to face a drawn-out economic crisis, Fidesz moved for the ultimate coup de grâce. With control of not only the office of the prime minister but also two-thirds of the legislature, Fidesz was able to promulgate a new constitution that recently came into force. Rewriting everything from election policies to the delicate systems of checks and balances put in place after Hungary’s horrifying experience under Communism, the new constitution immediately spurred massive protests in Budapest and across the country which are still on-going.
At the moment, the halls of power are securely in the hands of Fidesz, and they have shown an alarming tendency to abuse power as they pursue their agenda. Now that an opposition has finally manifested in the streets of Budapest, it remains to be seen whether the party that was elected on the promise of creating one million jobs but has failed at every turn will fight to hold on to the power it so desperately craves, or will cave to the people that are tired of living under the spectre of Depression-era tyrants.
Image Credit: The Telegraph, 2011
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