If you think it was all unexpected – think again. Even caricatures have been portraying Orbán as a gang leader and mafia boss since 1988.
In November 1988, Ludas Matyi, the satirical magazine was published with this front page:
How could anyone crack such a joke about a wholesome, youthful, sweet and liberal party back in 1988?
Well, whatever the 1988 joke referred to, there was the mafia theme by 1999. Hungary’s version of the Economist, the most prestigious economic weekly came out with this front page in December 1999, portraying Orbán as the godfather and his (then) cronies as the gang.
Fast forward another 20 years and the cycle is complete. The 1999 gang is all but gone, replaced by new cronies. Chums of zero public standing but huge bank accounts. All thanks to the godfather. And of course, The Family.
The new generation of Orbán’s cronies featured on the billboards below. Orbán’s former top oligarch spread these billboards all over the country when he broke up with Orbán in 2015 – and he knew what he was talking about. He built it.
Three years later, he has also thrown in the towel and disappeared licking his wounds. Orbán finished him off – we just don’t know how.
So foreign correspondents might be surprised – but why?
Orbán had earlier absorbed both Fkgp and Miép, two nationalist-populist parties of the 1990s – the latter was openly antisemitic. Now his speeches are carbon copies of Miép’s leader’s, who was considered wildly extreme right in the 1990s.
Orbán and his party has never been democratic, not even for show. Political science students in Hungary have learned for decades that the left wing parties are democratic in their inner operations, the right is not. Why the surprise?
And the mafia tools they operated with have not been a secret either. Orbán may have made it from a young liberal to an old autocrat – but it was all just a change of image, not a change of substance.