Sat, Aug 17, 2013 - Page 9 News List

Autocrats arising amid democracies

From Hungary’s Orban and the Czech Republic’s Zeman to Erdogan in Turkey, a new breed of democratic strongman is taking power

By Ian Traynor  /  The Guardian, FELCSUT, Hungary

He is also giving citizenship and the right to vote to hundreds of thousands of Hungarians outside the country. They will be able to vote for the first time in general elections next April. The expectation is they will vote for the party that gave them that right, helping Orban to another term.

Gordon Bajnai, an opposition leader and former Hungarian prime minister, described the current political project in Hungary last week as the building of “Orbanistan,” citing the Felcsut soccer stadium as a typical example.

Bodoky described the Felcsut soccer project as “pure feudalism,” somehow symptomatic of the new climate being wrought by Orban in Hungary.

“He is a very clever and a very authoritarian person. He’s a control freak,” Bodoky said. “He knows very well how the state works. He’s putting all his officers in all key positions and has no respect for independent institutions that can control or limit his power.”

Orban’s supporters — and he remains far ahead in the opinion polls — insist that the leader is simply daring to “deviate” from the European mainstream and put his country first. They are confident that Hungary and Orban, who utterly dominates national politics, are winning. Others are less sure.

“It’s a really tragic story,” Molnar said. “It’s a drama of how a very talented political person is being destroyed by his own hubris. I think he’s lost.”

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