After almost ten years in power, Hungarian society has quietly resigned to Orbán’s “illiberal state”. Orbán has shown that unlike candidates to EU membership, existing members don’t have to be democratic.
The inconvenient truth – Part 2.
“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.
If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat.
If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”
The biggest lie in Orbán’s illiberal state (called NER in Hungarian, which stands for “System of National Cooperation”) is that the ruling party can be defeated through democratic elections like in any other EU state. According to the prevailing narrative, the main reason for the last two election defeats was the lack of coordination between opposition parties. The main opposition parties have all accepted this fiction and thus have been incorporated into the System of National Cooperation.
As a consequence of gerrymandering, a vote for the opposition counts, in effect, half as much as a vote for Fidesz. That’s how Fidesz gets two-thirds of all parliamentary seats with less than 50% of the votes. Parties who are actually backed by more than 50% of voters, get less than one third of seats, with all the disadvantages it entails. The opposition has also quietly accepted that Fidesz has made it harder for voter groups suspected of leaning towards the opposition to cast their votes. Whereas ethnic Hungarians in neighboring countries are allowed to vote through mail, Hungarians working abroad can only do this in person at the local embassy. Needless to say, many voters are burdened with extra cost of time and money.
By accepting this flawed election system, the opposition has walked into the clever trap set by Fidesz. The current left and green parties argue about whether it’s ethical to cooperate in the upcoming local elections with Jobbik, a party they called fascist only a few years ago. Instead of joining forces in the fight for a fair election system, they are debating whether to cooperate with Jobbik, thus ceding the middle ground to Fidesz. Orbán can play the responsible conservative who doesn’t accept any form of antisemitism while his party again litters the country with anti-Soros posters.
The majority of Orbán’s opponents and critics have still not understood the true nature of his regime. Hungary is not a western democracy and politics doesn’t work like in most parts of Europe. Unless the number of participants in protests reaches several hundred thousand all over the country, Orbán will ignore them, because he knows he can. Journalists and oppositions MPs cannot shame him into answering their questions, because he – like Trump – is shameless. Whereas most western politicians are held accountable to common rules even by their own supporters, Orbán plays by his own rules, and sometimes ignores even those. His opponents try to keep up with him, but he cannot be beaten at his own game of cheating without shame and accountability.
This lack of understanding supports the regime’s deception and altered reality. Respected journalists and political analysts debate Fidesz party hacks on TV, who are masquerading as professionals, but who really aren’t. These debates are worse than futile – they give the impression that propaganda workers are legitimate experts, lending them a credibility and legitimacy they don’t deserve.
Discussing migration and the imaginary “Soros plan” with propaganda workers is as meaningful as a debate between a scientist and a flat earth believer. They also fool their audiences by painting this as a discussion between the left and the right and not a struggle between authoritarians and democrats. Journalists accept willingly that some of their colleagues are barred from Orbán’s rare press conferences, and are powerless when the prime minister lies cynically in their faces.
What foreign politicians, academics and businessmen believe to be negotiations are really just a pretense for Orbán. Unlike his opponents, the Russians and the Chinese have understood that the only language Orbán speaks is power.
The inconvenient truth is that unlike old communist dictatorships, the Hungarian “illiberal state” is not entirely based on lies and deception. It has genuinely strong support among the population. Orbán may be a vassal of Putin, but his power is based on Hungarian votes and not Russian tanks.
As long as the majority of Hungarian society and the European Union accepts Orbán’s “illiberal state” with all it’s rules as a reality, nothing will change in the foreseeable future.