Hungary’s government - Viktor and Victor
Lessons from Budapest to Bucharest
Victor Ponta, the Romanian prime minister driving a tank through the constitution (see previous article), could learn from Viktor Orban, his Hungarian counterpart and near namesake. Rather than wreck Hungary’s constitution, Mr Orban replaced it. Hungary’s slide towards autocracy has been solidly buttressed by a two-thirds parliamentary majority for Fidesz, the right-wing ruling party. The prime minister and his acolytes say this gives them a mandate for radical change.
New York Times Guest Post: Romania Unravels the Rule of LawI know many of you are just as concerned about Romania right now as you have been about Hungary for quite some time. Below is Kim Lane Scheppele's comparison of the two crises in democratic politics. And the verdict is: "Though misery is not a competition, the Hungarian situation is far more serious than the Romanian situation..."
Viktor Orbán has rewritten the Hungarian constitution, implanted his own loyalists in virtually all important state institutions, compromised the independence of the courts, centralized local governments, rigged the electoral machinery and otherwise dug himself in, both legally and practically, for the long haul. It is hard to see how his party will ever be forced from power because there is virtually no independent political institution left standing that would give any opponents leverage from which to launch such an effort. And the political opposition is in complete disarray.
Is Romania worse than Hungary?
Damning statements are not the European Commission's forte, especially not when political events in a member state are at stake. And yet on July 7th the Commission broke with its tradition and issued a stark warning to the Romanian government, saying it was "concerned" about actions undermining the Constitutional Court.
The "sequence" of events in the last few weeks, a spokesman said, "put at risk all the progress made over the past five years in having more respect for the rule of law and democratic checks and balances and independence of the judiciary in the country". Similar concerns over the rule of law were voiced in Berlin, with some German parliamentarians even floating the possibility of suspending Romania's voting rights in the European Union (EU).
This 'nuclear option' was only triggered once in the late 1990s when the far-right Freedom Party came to power in Austria. Last year the European Parliament also considered this move for Hungary after its new government made controversial changes to the constitution that put judges, central bankers and media under party control. But things are even worse in Romania, an EU official told our blog writer in Brussels, because there “they are not changing the constitution. They are breaking it”.
Hungary’s financial transaction tax is latest snub to EU and IMF
“Nonsensical and illegal.” That’s how András Simor, governor of Hungary’s central bank (pictured), described last week’s decision to extend a new financial transactions tax to include operations carried out by the central bank itself.
The move is likely to stir similar feelings at the IMF and the EU. Officials only recently agreed to open talks on a support package after Budapest reluctantly rolled back other attacks on the central bank’s independence – and then only temporarily. Will they find it as easy to ignore Budapest’s latest snub?
Last Updated on Friday, 13 July 2012 08:17