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Hungary ʼnot a democracy anymoreʼ, Freedom House claims

In the latest edition of its "Nations in Transit" report, NGO Freedom House claims that Hungary should not be considered a democracy anymore, adding that the countryʼs "decline has been the most precipitous ever tracked."

Viktor Orbán (Image by Alexandros Michailidis / Shutterstock.com)

The NGOʼs report evaluated elected state institutions (local and national governments), unelected state institutions (the judiciary and anti-corruption authorities), and unelected nonstate institutions (civil society and the media).

"As the democratic consensus of the post–Cold War order has given way to great-power competition and the pursuit of self-interest, these politicians have stopped hiding behind a facade of nominal compliance," the report says.

Secretary of State for International Communication and Relations Zoltán Kovács, who also acts as the Orbán governmentʼs international spokesman criticized the report on Twitter.

"Such a pity. @freedomhouse was once known as the bipartisan human rights organization. With their Soros funding they’ve declined, becoming the fist of the party that is the Soros network. Anyone who doesn’t conform to their liberal view, gets downgraded," he tweeted.

Freedom House argues that the breakdown of the consensus has been most visible in Central Europe and the Balkans. In the report, Poland has been recategorized as a "Semi-Consolidated Democracy" instead of a "Consolidated Democracy", as the governing Law and Justice (PiS) ramped up its crackdown on the independence of the judiciary.

Hungary has been reclassified as a "Transitional/Hybrid Regime", falling out of the "Semi-Consolidated Democracy" category, after the adoption of an emergency law that allows the government to rule by decree.

No EU repercussions 

"Neither Poland nor Hungary has faced repercussions for damaging the rule of law at home, and Hungary’s ruling Fidesz party has even remained a member of the mainstream European People’s Party, the largest grouping in the European Parliament," the report says.

However, as the Budapest Business Journal reported earlier, EPP head Donald Tusk said that he wants to expel Fidesz from the group by the end of 2020.

Freedom House also notes that U.S. President Donald Trump has embraced both the Hungarian and Polish regimes, putting pressure on Ukraineʼs leadership instead to extract personal political favors.

Pressure rising

The report argues that the pressure on Hungaryʼs divided opposition is also rising.

In 2019, "Fidesz enacted a so-called  ʼMuzzle Lawʼ that introduced sanctions for lawmakers whose actions are deemed disruptive, and which moreover prohibits independent lawmakers from caucusing with party groups," Freedom House says.

The measure came as a reaction to the oppositionʼs in-Parliament protest against the introduction of the so-called "Slave Law", which was passed in December 2018.

Furthermore, the report argues that, despite opposition victories during 2019, "a massive government propaganda network and the politicized application of administrative resources continued to overwhelm the ideologically divided opposition parties at the end of the year."