To save Hungarian liberal democracy, centrists must work with the far right | Mudde case

LLast summer, I gave a talk at a workshop on “Counterattack: Liberal Democrat Responses to the Populist ChallengeAt the Central European University (CEU) in Budapest, which has been the target of attacks by Victor Orbán and his Fidesz party since I worked there in the late 1990s.

I’ve made my usual argument, which is that the populist radical right represents the noisy minority rather than the silent majority, and that we should focus on strengthening liberal democracy rather than weakening the populist radical right.

Then I was asked what to do with Hungary, where the radical right is in power and liberal democracy has, on the whole, been replaced by what Orbán officially calls a “”Illiberal state”. How to strengthen liberal democracy in an illiberal state? Shouldn’t you first defeat the illiberal state before you can rebuild liberal democracy?

I argued that in such a case, the Liberal Democrats should do everything to break the hold of the illiberal Democrats on power, which includes working with other illiberal Democrats. In the case of Hungary, I suggested that the liberal democratic opposition, split into various personalized and small political parties, form a tactical alliance with the illiberal democratic opposition, united in the Radical Right-Wing Populist Movement for a Better Hungary. or Jobbik.

The air came out of the room as I saw many people in the audience shaking their heads violently. Work with Jobbik? Are they not worse than Fidesz d’Orbán? In theory yes, but in practice no.

Although Jobbik is currently campaigning on a radical right-wing platform that is less populist than Fidesz, a Jobbik government will almost certainly be even worse for liberal democracy than the current Fidesz government. But the point is, they are not in power and are unlikely to come to power on their own. Fidesz is however in power.

Fidesz has not ceased to dismantle liberal democracy in Hungary since its return to power in 2010. He and his party have amended the constitution, appointed friends for each new post and created an “illiberal”.Franken StateAs one of Orbán’s most astute critics, Kim-Lane Scheppele, called it.

On top of that, Orbán built a kleptocracy who enriched a small group of his friends, in particular thanks to EU subsidies and German investments, to the detriment of the general population. Knowing that he must cling to power to keep the corrupt system go and keep going The oligarchs of Orban incurring prison terms, the Fidesz government continues to manipulate the electoral process by bribing opposition politicians, creating false holidays further divide the opposition and limit the space for opposition campaigns.

This is why the next legislative elections will probably be the last somewhat free and fair elections, in which the opposition has at least a theoretical chance of defeating Fidesz. That, and nothing else, is in play on Sunday, April 8. And, for this higher cause, a tactical and temporary alliance with Jobbik is acceptable and necessary.

Jobbik is Hungary’s most powerful opposition party, mainly because liberals cared more about ideological details and personal power than saving liberal democracy. Without Jobbik, there is no chance of electoral victory for the opposition.

Some members of the public at the Central European University openly opposed an alliance with Jobbik because it would “legitimize” or “normalize” the radical right. Fidesz supporters like the British Hungarian sociologist Frank Furedi also jumped on it, saying it just shows that European liberals like me aren’t really concerned about the far right in Hungary as long as it is. “our extreme right”. Both miss the point.

Liberal opposition parties should not collaborate with Jobbik because they accept, let alone legitimately, their radical right-wing populist ideas. They should work together despite their radical right-wing populist ideology! The only objective of the tactical alliance is to prevent Fidesz from putting the last nail in the coffin of Hungarian liberal democracy. In this case, no government is better than a government.

So what would this tactical alliance look like? Since Fidesz has created a electoral system which caters exclusively to its strengths, there are few options left. The majority of the 199 seats in the unicameral parliament are elected by first-party system, as in the UK and US. It was a two-round majority system, like in France, but it could create loopholes between party coalitions, including an anti-Fidesz coalition, which is why the government abolished it.

Under the current system, coalitions should be formed before elections. To this end, a group of former politicians recently created a website which lists all the candidates in the 106 SMU constituencies and indicates which candidate from the “anti-Orbán camp” has the best chance of winning the constituency.

Opposition parties should sit down together and create a mutually acceptable list of best-placed candidates and remove all other candidates. In this case, each constituency would have only one Fidesz candidate and one opposition candidate (competing in the elections under the banner of their own party) – leaving aside the various bogus parties created by Fidesz for confuse the voter.

This is the only way to break Orbán’s grip on dying Hungarian liberal democracy. Fidesz questions 50% among determined voters and, given the rigged electoral system, could regain a constitutional majority.

Liberals have a choice between staying clean and facing the certainty of an illiberal state or “getting their hands dirty” and at least fighting for a liberal democratic future. There are less than two weeks left. The clock is turning.

  • Cas Mudde is a columnist for the Guardian US, an associate professor in the School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Georgia, and a researcher at the Center for Research on Extremism at the University of Oslo.