Guest Post

5 signs of a classic dictatorship in Hungary

I don’t believe Hungary is a classic dictatorship, neither that it is becoming one. But there are certain elements in Orbán’s Hungary that can be found in old school dictatorships and are inconceivable in a genuine democracy.

They were also unimaginable in Hungary (at least for me) twelve years ago.

1. Publicly funded leader-worshiping billboards displayed in public places

There is an election campaign going on but these are not election billboards put up by a party. These are labeled as “government information”, depicting Orbán as a strong leader and slogans about peace and safety.



2. Leader-worshiping on the state broadcaster

Churning out Fidesz (and pro-Kremlin) propaganda, distorting or not mentioning news that don’t fit the Orbánist playbook is nothing new when it comes to the state media.

But leading “journalist” Balázs Bende has taken it a step further. In his programs about foreign affairs he routinely denounces critics of Orbán as enemies and traitors of Hungary and praises the people for their wisdom for electing the right government. According to him, the warmonger West is to blame for the escalating Russian-Ukrainian war. He would probably feel at home in North Korean television.

3. Government propaganda in the form of movies

After the suppression of the 1956 revolution the Soviet-installed regime felt it needed to shore up its legitimacy. Several movies about the so-called 1956 “counter-revolution” were made in the late fifties. In one if these, the revolutionaries are using death lists, and the captive good guys (aka. communists) are saved just in time by the liberating Soviet army.

After sixty years such movies seem to be in vogue again. ‘Elkxrtuk’ (‘The Cost of Deception’ in English) is centered on Fidesz’ own version of 1956, the 2006 riots.

Orbán celebrates 2006 instead of 1956

In this movie – marketed by Fidesz politicians as a genuine account of what happened – it turns out that real evil culprit was Klára Dobrev, the wife of then prime minister Ferenc Gyurcsány. (Ed.: At the time of the shooting of this movie she was tipped to become the leader of the united opposition. By the time the movie came out it was no longer the case.)

As a third-rate thriller ‘Elkxrtuk’ has its entertaining moments. My favorite is when a cabinet minister uses his chauffer-driven car to kidnap a young woman and simultaneously pursues her journalist boyfriend in a car chase. It ends when the minister orders his driver to crash into the other car.

4. Pro-government marches on national holidays

Although not compulsory as in the old days, it is still financed by public funds, and its main purpose is for the masses to pledge allegiance to the leader and hear him denounce the enemies of the nation, usually his opponents and the West. (Ed.: It may not be technically compulsory but pressure is much more personal and dependence deeper in the countryside.)

5. Cult-like worship of the leader

Orbán has been the undisputed leader of his party for decades and has built up a cult-like following. No doubt plenty of his followers love him genuinely, but this has shown a way for shameless opportunists to get ahead.

Some have more experience than others. One older ”journalist”, for instance, has managed to be decorated both by the communist interior ministry and the Orbán-government.

Before the 2018 elections, news anchors in the supposedly commercial TV2 lined up to declare their intent to vote for Orbán.

In 2022 they repeated the video – even though it earned them a fine in 2018.

Recently a musician was sporting an Orbán t-shirt during an interview.

Pataki orban polo

An Orbán T-shirt is also a popular choice when you get an audience with the leader.

Kotcse Orban polo

Or perhaps a new shirt for Matteo Salvini?

Salvini putin

Making the great leader your fashion statement is nothing new after all.

Mussolini swimsuit

A Mussolini swimsuit

(Ed.: You forgot the new head of state who used to wear Fidesz and Orbán on her earrings.)


(Guest post.)

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