The World Today for February 27, 2024


Family Feud


Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, whom the Barcelona Centre for International Affairs and others have described as illiberal because of his predilection for authoritarianism and admiration for Russia and China, has long portrayed himself as a defender of traditional family values.

That was then.

Now, the allegations that Orban’s ally, ex-Hungarian President Katalin Novak, pardoned a man convicted of covering up sexual abuse of underage boys at a state-run children’s home has tarnished that image, CNN reported. Novak resigned on Feb. 17, saying she made a mistake and didn’t know the abuser’s record. Former Justice Minister Judit Varga is also embroiled in the scandal.

Despite the resignation, the furor is unabated. Recently, tens of thousands of angry Hungarians took to the streets to protest against Orban and his rule, in the biggest anti-government demonstrations in years, wrote Reuters. Social media influencers helped organize the protests, an interesting development that highlights a new kind of popular pressure that Orban hasn’t really encountered before in his 18 years as prime minister.

“I don’t know exactly what we’re going to achieve at the end of the day,” said Zsolt Osváth, one of the online figures, in an interview with the Associated Press. “But it’s certain that we won’t stay silent any longer, and that we had to step out from the comfort zone of our computer screens.”

These developments were the latest of recent blows to Orban’s normally iron grip on power, opined World Politics Review.

Orban had been blocking Sweden from joining NATO, for example. Recently, however, he relented, reported Axios, as his opposition – essentially a pro-Russian stance – became untenable within the alliance.

He similarly threatened to veto a crucial European Union aid package to Ukraine, leading Politico to contend that he was behaving like a Russian ally. But, when European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, French President Emmanuel Macron, and Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni threatened to cut EU subsidies to Hungary, the prime minister yielded.

Domestically, he’s won ‘family-friendly’ battles: Orban’s so-called “child protection law” enacted in 2021, was designed to limit minors’ access to books, movies, or other forms of expression that “promote or portray” nonconforming gender identities. Authorities fired the director of the Hungarian National Museum for hanging photographs of men in women’s clothing, for example, reported the New York Times, because they claimed his staff couldn’t check if viewers were 18 years or older.

Rather than reducing interest in homosexuality and other themes in art and culture, however, wrote Radio Free Europe, the law and its enforcement seem to have emboldened more Hungarians to continue discussing, reading, and consuming art about these topics.

Can Orban survive these tests? In a move that appeared designed to improve his chances of keeping power, Bloomberg reported, his government recently levied heavy fines on opposition parties for allegedly financing their campaigns illegally.

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