The war of words between Fidesz Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and Hungarian-American billionaire investor and philanthropist George Soros continues to take on certain attributes of literal war as Orbán and his party’s most recent round of anti-immigrant legislation, expanding the ability of the military to detain undocumented foreigners, gets referred-to with greater frequency by supporters as the “Stop Soros Bill.” All the while large threatening billboards lining the streets of Budapest warn of the supposed nefarious plans of Soros to “settle millions of African and Middle-Eastern migrants” in the country, occasionally getting further decorated with anti-Semitic graffiti.
Orbán has spent most of his political career railing against greedy bankers and “liberal elites” in economically populist screeds against “politically correct” Liberalism. From this perspective, George Soros is almost too perfect of an enemy for Orbán, Soros having spent a significant amount of his immense fortune funding enterprises that seek to further progressive political interests in former Soviet states through his Open Societies Foundations. Amusingly, the two men were once on the same side of history, fighting, in their own ways, Communism in late 1980s, despite having very different opinions on what a post-Soviet Hungary should look like.
Orbán’s open hatred of Soros and the kind of Liberalism he embodies, the use of banking fortunes to push foreign countries towards progressivism in the name of free trade and market capitalism, holds fascinating implications for the relationship between Leftism as a whole and the brand populist nationalism currently on the rise in Eastern Europe, one that I hope to interrogate further as the semester continues.
LASINI THARINDI PIYADIGAMA
I agree the EU should play a much bigger role in trying to push Hungary away from autocracy back to a democracy, but despite the bloc identifying the democratic erosion taking place, they have limited options given their close political alliances. For example, using Article 7 would involve sanctioning and removing voting rights of both Hungary and Poland and members of the EU are hesitant to go ahead with it because it is seen as a nuclear option. But, maybe with the backing of other international bodies, such as the U.N. and the World Bank, they can garner enough support to put pressure on Orban and his government to break up power and allow other politicians to come into power. Also, like you said, the public has little power in their control to change the way the country is run, so more pressure should come from the outside to prevent Hungary from transitioning to a fully-fledged autocracy.
This was a very informational article, I dont recall hearing about this in the news so I am glad that we have people reporting on events that I wouldnt hear otherwise. We should all be concerned when populists are in power and making discriminatory legislation against minority or vulnerable groups like immigrants. I didnt know the tensions in Hungary were so high and the fact that there is now legislation calling on the military is quite concerning. I like that you were able to detail the event in a concise manner and included only the pertinent details. In the future, I think it would be helpful to the readers to include hyperlinks to the content you’re talking about. Overall it was a great post!