Bloomberg News reports:
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said he wants to abandon liberal democracy in favor of an “illiberal state,” citing Russia and Turkey as examples.
The global financial crisis in 2008 showed that “liberal democratic states can’t remain globally competitive,” Orban said on July 26 at a retreat of ethnic Hungarian leaders in Baile Tusnad, Romania.
“I don’t think that our European Union membership precludes us from building an illiberal new state based on national foundations,” Orban said, according to the video of his speech on the government’s website. He listed Russia, Turkey and China as examples of “successful” nations, “none of which is liberal and some of which aren’t even democracies.”
Orban, who was re-elected in April for a second consecutive four-year term, has clashed with the EU as he amassed more power than any of his predecessors since the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989, replacing the heads of independent institutions including the courts with allies, tightening control over media and changing election rules to help him retain a constitutional majority in Parliament.
Orban, a former self-described liberal, anti-communist student leader in the 1980s, has championed relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin and the leaders of China, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan since 2010 to boost trade.
“Orban’s comments are very controversial and closer to what we’re used to hearing from President Putin of Russia than from a leader of a European democracy,” Paul Ivan, an analyst at the Brussels-based European Policy Centre, said by phone today. “It’s also an extremely bad moment to cite Russia and Turkey as examples, with Russia becoming much more imperialistic and nationalistic and with serious attacks on the freedom of speech in Turkey.”
It was just a couple of years ago that Orban was the subject of a flattering profile by Christopher Caldwell in the mainstream conservative Weekly Standard. Republican Congressman Chris Smith of New Jersey has been an outspoken defender of the prime minister.
I await their apologies for so wildly misjudging him.
Orban said his “illiberal democracy” won’t deny the “fundamental values” of liberalism, such as “freedom.”
Well, Mr. Prime Minister, if your models are Russia, Turkey and China, I think that is exactly what it will deny.
“The point of the future is that anything can happen,” Orban said. “That means it could easily be that our time will come.”
To which I can only respond: Gulp.
(Hat tip: Unenlightened_Commentary)