Hungary is no longer a democracy — from NewStatesman via WatchDog.net

Europe has been slow to act, but it is not too late.

By Benjamin Abtan


A man wears a sticker on his mouth bearing the name of Hungary’s governing party Fidesz at a protest on 30 March against the country’s new constitution. (Photo: Getty.)

It is now a fact: Hungary is no longer a democracy.

President János Áder has just signed the implementation decrees for new constitutional reforms that wipe out what was left of opposition forces against the government.

More particularly, the Constitutional Court is no longer allowed to give its opinion about the content of laws and to refer to its own case-law – which results in the loss of almost all monitoring power on the legislature and the executive.

This meticulous destruction of democracy and its values – whose starting point was the landslide election of Fidesz in 2010 – has taken place over months and months, under everybody’s eyes. [Like continuous Thatcher/Reagan drip-by-drip assault on democracy and immiseration of people.]

The attack was clear and continuous: crippling restriction of the freedom of the press, political direction of the Central Bank, inclusion in the Constitution of Christian religious references and of the “social utility” of individuals as a necessary condition for the enforcement of social rights, deletion of the word “Republic” in the same Constitution to define the country’s political system, condemnation of homosexuality, criminalisation of the homeless, attacks against women’s rights, impunity afforded to perpetrators of racist murders, the strengthening of a virulent anti-Semitism . . .

Only a few days ago, prime minister Viktor Orban officially decorated three extreme right-wing leading figures: journalist Ferenc Szaniszlo, known for his diatribes against the Jews and the Roma people, who he compares to “monkeys”; anti-Semitic archaeologist Kornel Bakav, who blames the Jews for having organized the slave trade in the Middle-Age; finally, “artist” Petras Janos, who proudly claims his proximity to the Jobbik and its paramilitary militia, responsible for several racist murders of Romani people and heiress of the pro-Nazi Arrow Cross Party, that organised the extermination of Jews and Gypsies during the Second World War.

This political degradation gives us a gruesome historical and political lesson. Throughout the twentieth century, representative democracy suffered the attacks of the two major totalitarian systems of the century – Nazism and Communism. Nowadays, in the twenty-first century, it is under the blows of an anti-European, nationalist, racist and anti-Semitic populism that democracy has fallen, at the heart of Europe, amidst the indifference of the European Union and of too many of its citizens and leaders.

Obsessed by economic and financial issues, too indifferent to its fundamental values ??of freedom, equality, peace and justice, the EU has abandoned the fight to promote or even maintain democracy as the political system of its member states.

Unlike Putin’s Russia, for example, Hungary is not a world power, and realpolitik cannot be invoked as a reason for this desertion. Since Hungary is strongly dependent on European subsidies and assistance, and since the EU has ominously shown in Greece how its financial support can be politicised to the extreme, its supposed lack of room for manoeuvre cannot be invoked either.

The fundamental reason is unfortunately as simple as it is worrying: it is a lack of commitment of the citizens and European leaders towards representative democracy as a political system.

This is why, since his re-election in 2010, Orban has received the unfailing support of many European leaders, notably from his own political family; this is also why the European Commission does not use any of the instruments available – though it does have many – to enforce the EU’s fundamental values.

For example, the Commission, the Parliament and the European Council, where the states are represented, can act in concert to pursue actions under Article 7 of the EU Treaty, introduced by the Amsterdam Treaty in 1997 in order to avoid any backward step on democracy for any EU member state. Article 7 intends to suspend the voting rights of a country within the Council in case of a “potential violation of common values?”.

In Hungary, however, the stage of risk was overstepped a long time ago. Actions under Article 7 should therefore be urgently taken, as a first step towards a strong EU commitment to defend democracy and its values.

Similarly, European civil society must continue to commit itself strongly to support Hungarian democrats who bravely fight within the country itself.

If the EU and civil society were not to commit themselves with the determination required by the gravity of the situation, we would be doomed to witness its rapid decay, in Hungary and soon elsewhere, if the European commitment turned out to be insufficient.

Let there be no mistake: what is at stake here is the nature of the European project and the ability of Europe to preserve our common and most precious commodity: democracy. For several decades, the choice between barbarism and democracy has never been so obvious.

Resolutely, we have to choose Europe and democracy.

Benjamin Abtan is president of the European Grassroots Antiracist Movement (EGAM)

About Thom Prentice

"Thom Prentice? Well, he planted a lot of trees." Rogue thinker. Urban Hermit. We are a part OF Nature — not apart FROM Nature. Lennonist. Poet and Naturalist. Existentialist. Rishi. Living life of the mind and spirit. Journo. Longtime Global Warming alarmist. "Capitalism REQUIRES slavery." thom prentice [at] (g) male dot com..."always musing on the decline and fall of everything, a perfect Greek chorus of one' (stolen from Louis Proyect). *****Knowledge, learning, thinking and critical thinking pusher. Philosophe. Seeker. Searcher. Gentle Spirit. Likes to drive with the windows down and sunroof open. Mindfulness. Diogenes looking for an open-minded person in American civilization. Déclassé Intellectual. Avec sans culottes. Urban Anchorite. Wakefulness. Longtime Global Capitalism-Ain't Working alarmist. *****“The role of public intellectuals is to question accepted dogmas, conceive of new methods of analysis, and expand the terms of public debate.” (The New Yorker). Like Thomas Piketty, when I start reading and thinking, collecting data, evidence and making observations, I have no idea where it will go. Historical Conceptualist, Not Minute Detailist (Francois Furet). A Texas Public Intellectual: Public Intellecty'all. *****Time to get out of the restless amnesia of the news cycle which distracts us from the REAL PROBLEM: Wall Street Neoliberal Capitalism & Austerity. [“No Bishop, No King”: King James I] Anti-fascist. Egalitarian. Democracy first, last and always. “Afflicting the comfortable and comforting the afflicted” in a civilization “which comforts the comfortable and afflicts the afflicted.”***** Undermining assumptions. Photographer. Controversialist. Dissenter. “Democracy should rule capitalism but capitalism should NEVER rule democracy.”*****It is time to talk about a socialist alternative. Glasnost, Perestroika, Democratizya. Zapatista. Socialista.” POLITICAL democracy is USELESS without ECONOMIC democracy.” Capitalism is in catastrophic failure as we speak. “The Luddites were right because they were only about managing and controlling their own workplace and production, not some outside, agitating profiteering capitalists”. Democracy should rule capitalism but capitalism should NEVER rule democracy. Democracy should rule capitalism but capitalism should NEVER rule democracy. CounterNarratives and CounterForces. Pushback. Resistance. Contrarian. *****Controversialist. “Asker of awkward and inconvenient questions.” “A privileged citizen of a predatory imperial nation-state within a pathological capitalist economic system.” (Direct steal from Dr. Robert Jensen, UT-Austin) "I think it is primarily getting TRUTH into discussion" -- stolen from my friend Chuck. Dog person. “The more we learn about animals, the more we learned about ourselves.” WhiteGuy, Symbologist [DaVinci Code]. Deconstructioneer, Scribbler, Scrivener, Authentic Journalist, Lifelong Learner*****14 year cancer fighter/survivor (it keeps coming back). WhistleBlower from the ground up. Speaking Truth. “Without Economic Democracy, political democracy is useless and worthless and even deranged.” Evidence is everywhere indicating the looming apocalypses. Failed parallel parking. Post-partisan and post-ideological. People First. Democracy First. TURN OFF THE TV NEWS! INDEED TURN OFF THE TV!

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