Orbán adopts Putinism: The West finally wakes up

Never in over four years of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s  rise to power with a supermajority have major western journals and commentators sounded the alarm bells quite so loud. In just the last 24 hours, two major outlets have written about the demise of parliamentary democracy in Hungary, in a manner that has never before been seen, not even when Hungary’s media laws, electoral changes or the unilateral adoption of a new constitution ruffled feathers and caused consternation in the European Union. Those worries have now made their way across the Atlantic and are being expressed not only by a small group of erudite policymakers, but by some of the most prominent columnists.

Viktor Orbán. Photo: Facebook.

Viktor Orbán. Photo: Facebook.

Let’s start with Fareed Zakaria, writing for The Washington Post. Mr.  Zakaria believes that Mr. Orbán’s most recent speech in Tusnádfürdő, and his declaration that liberal democracy in Hungary is dead, signals the rise of Putinism in the heart of Europe.

“Hungary is again a trendsetter, becoming the first European country to denounce and distance itself from liberal democracy. It is adopting a new system and set of values that are best exemplified by Vladimir Putin’s Russia but are finding echoes in other countries as well. (…) Orban’s actions over the past few years demonstrate that his own role model has been Russia under Putin. Orban has enacted and implemented in Hungary a version of what can best be described as ‘Putinism’,” writes Mr. Zakaria.

The Washington Post columnist defines Putinism as:

  1. A repressive system of social, economic and political control.
  2. The ideology of power
  3. Social conservatism mixed with a type of faux religiosity
  4. The eroding of judicial independence and the curbing of international rights
  5. Hindering press freedom through intimidation
  6. The adoption of an anti-western attitude, with the west being perceived as decadent and cosmopolitan. The latter term serves, in the minds of Putinists, as a pejorative.

Mr. Zakaria mentions the introduction of a new 40% media tax, which aims to weaken and potentially bankrupt the country’s most popular, German-owned television station, RTL Klub, is the newest clamp-down of what little is left of the country’s independent media.

The columnist concludes that whether Putinism succeeds and whether it really does spread will depend on the outcome of the conflict in Eastern Ukraine, where the Russian president could either arise out of that strengthened, or could leave him badly isolated and bruised.

The Wall Street Journal also wrote an uncharacteristically hard-hitting editorial on Mr. Orbán’s vision of terminating liberal democracy in Hungary. “Hungary’s slow-motion transformation into a soft-authoritarian state may appear to Washington and Brussels as a provincial concern on Europe’s periphery. Yet Mr. Orban looks with admiration to Vladimir Putin —and harbors Putin-like aspirations. (…) More broadly, Mr. Orban’s illiberal candor is a warning that free markets and free societies need more forceful defending. The West’s victory in the Cold War led to a complacency that the liberal idea was triumphant—that it was “the end of history,” in the fashionable phrase of the day. But authoritarians are always lurking to seize on democratic weakness,”–writes the WSJ.

Mr. Orbán has been lurking in the dark for four and a half years. In Tusnádfürdő, he finally stepped out into the daylight with his vision of dictatorship in Hungary. And finally, the West is waking up to this troubling reality.


  1. Best of text: „Mr. Orbán has been lurking in the dark for four and half years. In Tusnádfürdő, he finally stepped out in the daylight with his vision of dictatorship in Hungary.”

  2. Avatar Hungarian Free Press says:

    Thanks, Eszter. One day we shall overcome. Hopefully.

  3. First, let me express my joy and satisfaction that this English-language online newspaper was born. Hope you can make it and HFP becomes a big success. My best wishes for all of you and thanks a lot for all your efforts to make things better.
    “And finally, the West is waking up to this troubling reality.”
    Now, there we go. I don’t really know what to think about it. It looks like the little man goes on challenging the big boys over and over again while the good ones are waiting for the West to wake up. What wake-up? I keep on asking myself why big boys would put up with the little man dancing with them for so long now. The only answer I can find, because the little man is dancing the way they want. It would be much too naive to ask who is pulling the string but it looks like the West or say, the EU is trying to avoid confrontation with the little man or with someone who is pulling the string from behind. If this is the case at all.

    But Tusnádfürdő was another challenge again. Orban is always paying good attention to deliver his arrogant challenges from a “safe” place, far away from Budapest, before a limited and harmless audience. He might have a good reason for that. Then again he quickly takes good care of that the footage would appear on his site and on Youtube. Speaking the words of insane and arrogant lies, misconceptions, confusing the question if intellect with moral, showing off complete ignorance of democracy when mentioning Obama and the White House, going whimpering when realizes that even a PM like he can be held accountable for his actions. Miserable and pathetic display of muscle flexing from insane pocked dictator who is left unattended and even fed well.

    Now, he is gaining weight and power, getting fatter, looks like a grub and his body language shows all the 7 classic symptoms of a liar (source Yvonne K. Fulbright) while delivering his speech. Our little grub is soon going to pupate and when hatches we will have a real monster that would be everything but a Hungarian issue that can be localized.

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