Orbán: The Art of Eroding a Democracy

In 2010, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán came to power. Since then, he and his party, Fidesz, have systematically dismantled the country’s legal system and changed the election system to ensure future election victories. It is becoming harder and harder to criticise the government’s actions due to increasing restrictions by the government on the freedoms for media and civil society. It is not surprising that Fidesz won two-thirds of the seats in parliament 2014 and 2018, despite receiving less than 50 per cent of the votes in the 2014 and 2018 parliamentary elections.

A Rigged Election System

Testimonies from 170 ballot counters indicate that the ruling party gaining its narrow “super-majority” through “a combination of fraud and a rigged election system”. According to the organisation Unhack Democracy, this includes vote buying, “importing” of voters from neighbouring countries, uncertainties regarding the number of voters, election website malfunctions, tampering of votes from abroad, and election software systems built by people close to Fidesz that do not work.

Allocation of State Resources to the Ruling Party

Another way in which Orbán and Fidesz systematically undermine the democratic process in Hungary is by abusing their power to distribute state resources to themselves. International observers from the OSCE-ODIHR, Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, have noted a clear overlap of state resources and Fidesz resources in connection to the elections in the country, making it difficult for other parties to run for power on fair terms.

Shrinking Space for a Political Discussion

Orbán’s xenophobic rhetoric and discrediting of free media do not leave much room for an open democratic political debate. As a voter, it is not easy to make an informed decision about who should rule the country.

The Role of Media

The press and media play an important role in Hungary’s oppressive machinery. Since 2011, Fidesz has had the power to withdraw media licenses and fine journalists without providing good reasons, which means that independent media often censor their content to not end up on the wrong foot with the party.

Ownership of the media is increasingly shifting to oligarchs allied with Prime Minister Orbán’s government, and state-owned broadcasters are indirectly controlled by the party.

Human Rights Defenders are Under Attack

Human rights organisations and human rights defenders are under constant attack in Hungary. Representatives of the ruling elite, most notably Prime Minister Orbán, use stigmatising rhetoric that undermines the legitimacy and credibility of human rights defenders. They are portrayed as traitors and foreign mercenaries.

Support Those Brave Enough to Resist

We work with and support local human rights defenders and human rights organisations in Hungary, fighting for human rights and against the dismantling of democracy. With your support, we can continue this important work.

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Civil Rights Defenders defends people’s civil and political rights and support human rights defenders at risk. We work in some of the world’s most repressive regions on four continents, and in Sweden.

Together, we ensure that people’s rights and freedoms are respected and those who violate them are held accountable. Read more about this year’s campaign here.

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