Tag Archives: Viktor Orban

Observations of an expat: Liberty

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Retired UK Supreme Court Justice Lord Sumption recently told Radio Four’s World At One said that when people lose their freedom it is not because tyrants have taken it away. “It is usually because people willingly surrender their freedom in return for protection against some external threat.”

The eminent jurist was talking about measures in the UK to combat coronavirus which he described as a cure “worse than the disease.”

At the moment, I think he is wrong about Britain. But if he was talking about Hungary he would be spot-on. There the Fidesz-dominated parliament has responded to the pandemic by voting Prime Minister Viktor Orban the power to rule by decree for an indefinite period of time.

The right-wing populist Hungarian leader can now lock-up his media critics. He can continue to pack the courts with his cronies and block refugees from entering Hungary. He can close down universities that teach the liberal ideas he despises and dismiss from jobs anyone who makes disparaging comments about his rule. He can even suspend elections. Orban can, in effect, do whatever he wants. And because parliament has surrendered its scrutiny powers, he can do it for as long as he wants without fear of retribution.

Orban has gone on record as saying that his goal is to turn Hungary into an “illiberal state” along the same lines as Russia, China and Turkey. Now—thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic—he has the power to do it.

Hungary is also the leading light in the four-nation East European Visegrad Group of countries. Where he goes the others tend to follow. In fact, Slovakia, Poland and the Czech Republic have already said that they are thinking of passing similar decree-type legislation.

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