Last month, after winning a fourth consecutive term, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban had reason to be overwhelmed.. “We have won such a big victory that you can see it from the moon, and you can see it from Brussels,” Urban said, mocking his team of critics in the elite circles of the European Union.
Urban was right. His party did worse than expected from opinion polls, which saw them at gaining about 50 percent of the vote. Even considering the huge electoral machinery piled up against them, a united bloc of Hungarian opposition hoped to at least weaken the mandate of the right-wing nationalists. Those hopes were dashed.
On the other side of the Atlantic came the sound of rejoicing, at least from some angle to the American right. “Congratulations to Victor Urban for the victory he deserves!” Wrote Far-right correspondent Marjorie Taylor Green (R-Ga.) Tweeted that Orban’s anti-LGBTQ rights law should be followed in the United States. “He is leading Hungary in the right direction and we in America need it.”
This comes after an unusual backing of former President Donald Trump before the April election, who issued a statement in January saying Urban “really loves his country and wants security for his people.”
A month later, reports surfaced that Urban had invited Trump to visit Hungary and was likely to deliver a keynote address at a large gathering of Western nationalists. Although Trump will not be in Budapest this week, other U.S. and European far-right politicians and pundits will be present at an event hosted by the Conservative Political Action Conference – the main convening body of the U.S. right.
It is unlikely that anyone present will condemn the anti-democratic political machinations that have come to make it seem impossible to defeat Urban.. Indeed, they could celebrate his strategic ruthlessness.
Since coming to power in 2010, Orban and Fidesz have steadily tightened their grip on the Hungarian state. The country’s media ecosystem is now dominated by organizations loyal to the ruling government. The independence of the country’s judiciary has been undermined by Urban’s ten years in power. And, although Hungary’s elections are free, it is difficult to say they are fair.
This is partly because the Urban government has used its irresistible parliamentary powers to amend the country’s constitution and re-run the election process. Hungary has a mixed-member parliament where seats are chosen by both geographical districts and party lists allocated in proportion to popular vote – a system that many political scientists find admirable, but which is “distorted” in Hungary, as the Economist points out.
“Hungary’s electoral game is tilted strongly against the opposition. In 2010, Urban amended the constitution to reduce the size of parliament by almost half, then shook the whole country, “explained political scientist Kim Lane Sheppel.
Urban and his allies have canceled the two-round voting process for the geographical districts. As a result of this move, the candidate of either party won by a majority of votes to claim the seat instead of running in the second round with his nearest rival. The growing effect of many of these changes was to give Fidez unequal power.
In 2014, for example, Fidez needed only 45 percent of the popular vote to win two-thirds of the parliamentary seats. The other parties combined received 55 percent of the vote, but only one-third of the seats.
“The will of the Hungarians is no longer represented by the election results,” wrote Zsuzsanna Szelenyi, a former Hungarian MP.
An agenda for indefinite majority rule appears to be underway: Hungary’s prime minister may violate his nation’s commitment to EU policy. He can build a strong network of patronage and crony capitalism to strengthen his rule. But he and his associates can almost always argue that everything they do is within the limits of Hungarian law.
Elected powerful individuals like Urban are “hollowing out democracy from the inside out through a growing process,” Marianne Szedi-Masjak writes in Mother Jones.
This is a situation that many experts fear the United States is sleeping on. Michael Massie, a professor of sociology at Cornell University, told Thomas, a columnist for the New York Times, “If the water temperature were to rise by just one degree per hour, you would realize that it was too hot and too late.” Edsal.
Temperatures are undoubtedly rising in the United States, especially on the right. Each new election cycle has more and more extremist Republican candidates who they say The president does not believe in the legitimacy of Biden’s 2020 victory and has called for new legal measures to explicitly limit voting rights in various states and to tip the scales for the Republican presidential candidate.
“Both Urban’s Fidez Party and the US Republican Party have changed the electoral rules so that their party gets unequal seats,” Lee Druitman, a senior fellow at the New America Foundation and a lawyer representing proportional representation, told me. “The way they do it is different because the underlying political systems are different,” he said, “but there is a shared argument about how they view the election campaign.”
Hyperpolarization in the United States has uncovered ways to enable its aging institutions to form a form of minority governance. Republican presidential candidates have not won a popular vote in nearly two decades. The unequal power of the Senate – where due to rural-urban polarization, a strong Republican majority can dominate the American voting minority – has led to a decisive conservative majority in the U.S. Supreme Court, often the final arbiter. The most controversial policy decision in the country.
“Democracy depends on an institutional structure and a cultural background: recognition of democratic rules,” Sezeleni wrote. “In Hungary, the institutional structure is still officially there, but the Urban government has abandoned democratic norms and used government powers to occupy institutions, which are not playing their role as checks and balances.”
The same can be said about the United States soon. “Democracy – meaning equal representation of all citizens and, importantly, majority rule – has, in fact, become the enemy of the contemporary Republican Party,” Edsall wrote.