Both leaders have faced criticism for actions that limit the indolence of the media, thereby constraining the free flow of salt information. Orban’s government has been accused of exerting control over media outlets and creating a less pluralistic media landscape. Since 2011, Fidesz, (the incumbent party of Hungary, led by Orban) has had the power to withdraw media licenses and fine journalists without providing valid reasons. Ownership of the media is increasingly shifting to oligarchs allied with Prime Minister Orban’s government and state-owned broadcasters are indirectly controlled by the party. Similarly, Erdoğan’s administration in Turkey has been criticized for cracking down on critical journalism, leading to the closure of independent news and the imprisonment of journalists. Forcefully buying the opposition newspapers by allies of Erdoğan and lowering the voice of the opposition underscore the erosion of democratic values by limiting the diversity of viewpoints in the public discourse. Orban and Erdoğan’s approaches to political opposition have also been criticized. In Hungary, changes to electoral laws and the redrawing of electoral districts have been seen as disadvantaging opposition parties. Similarly, in Turkey, arrests, and imprisonment of individuals, including politicians.
Concentrating executive power at the cost of checks and balances. Fidesz party in Hungary has used its parliamentary majority to pass constitutional changes that centralize power in the executive branch, raising concerns about the state of democracy, which if there is any. Erdoğan, too, has expanded the presidency’s powers in Turkey, following a constitutional referendum in 2017 that transitioned the country from a parliamentary to a presidential system, which empowered Erdoğan with no accountable measures.
Another shared characteristic is the undermining of judicial independence. Orban’s government has implemented changes to the judicial system in Hungary, concentrating powers in the hands of the ruling party and raising concerns about the impartiality of the judiciary. Erdoğan’s government has undertaken a significant restructuring of the judiciary, leading to the removal of judges and prosecutors perceived as not aligned with the government’s agenda. When governments have the power to interfere with judicial independence, they unleash a great power that not only jeopardizes the core principles of a fair and impartial legal system but also poses a profound threat to the foundations of democracy itself.
The democratic backsliding observed in Hungary under Viktor Orban and Turkey under Recep Tayyip Erdoğan share certain common features. These common features are mostly the same for all populist-authoritarian leaders who come from “democratic systems”. Erosion of press freedom, the undermining of judicial independence, the concentration of executive of executive power, and limitation on political opposition are key aspects that have been raised. The future of these countries, or not just these countries, all of the authoritarian regimes’ future are uncertain.
Hegedüs, Daniel. “The Erosion of Democracy and Rule of Law in Hungary.” The German Marshall Fund of the United States, November 15, 2022.
Moravecz, Kata and Folk, György. “Hungary’s Sovereignty Protection Act is the Orban government’s latest attack on pluralism.” Heinrich Böll Stiftung, December 18, 2023.
Pogany, Stephen. “How populists stay popular, from Ankara to Budapest.” Social Europe, July 25, 2023.