Madeleine Albright thinks that Orbán’s Hungary is on the road to fascism

At 80 years of age Madeleine Jana Korbel Albright has had a long political career. She served as the 64th U.S. Secretary of State under President Clinton and was the first woman to hold this high level position.

Albright has Czech ancestry. Her father was a well-known anti-fascist who worked for the Beneš government-in-exile in London and later became a political science professor in the US. One of his students, Condoleezza Rice, served as the 66th U.S. Secretary of State under President George W. Bush.

Madeleine Albright knows Eastern-Europe well. She speaks several languages, among them Serbo-Croatian. She also knows Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. In her new book Fascism: A Warning she paints an unflattering picture of the Hungarian leader. Albright knows authoritarianism when she sees it and she sees the rebirth of the fascist ideas with the appearance of Turkey’s Erdogan, Venezuela’s Maduro and almost a full chapter of her book deals with Hungary’s Viktor Orbán. In a recent interview she talked about Hungary’s xenophobia: “for instance, the prime example is Hungary with Viktor Orbán, who is now talking about illiberal democracy, which is basically a way to deal with whoever is not, in his description, a Hungarian so he can go after immigrants.”

Cover of her best-seller book

Albright’s book is now a best-seller and being a long-time critic of the Hungarian leader I expected that Orbán’s loyal diplomats in the United States would attack her or at least avoid her company. On the contrary, they cannot resist her star power.

Ex-Ambassador Réka Szemerkényi, an Orbán confidant, openly admires her and recently elbowed herself next to her at a photo op.

Amb. Réka Szemerkényi with Albright (Szemerkényi stands right to the Secretary).

UN Ambassador Katalin Bogyay went one step further and distributed a “best friend” photo with Albright.

Hungary’s UN representative Ms. Katalin Bogyay with Albright.

You may ask the question: Why do ex-Ambassador Szemerkényi and Hungary’s UN Representative Ms. Bogyay distribute photos with one of the sharpest critics of their own government? It seems that several Hungarian diplomat have started to position themselves for the “after Orbán” times and they know that a photo with Albright might come handy after the fall of his authoritarian regime.

Ms. Szemerkényi and Ms. Bogyay can wave these photos as proof that they were always against the Orbán Viktatorship. Orbán is probably aware of the easily shifting loyalties of his diplomats; Hungary’s politicians turn on a dime and today’s loyal supporter may turn out to be a mortal enemy tomorrow.

Secretary Albright with Viktor Orbán in 2000.

So don’t be surprised if in the future more Hungarian officials will try to take photos with Albright. It is an insurance policy for the “after Orbán” times of Hungarian politics.

György Lázár

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