Hungary’s Prime Minister, Viktor Orbán, has clearly laid out the path for his country: by following Putin’s footsteps he wants to establish an illiberal democracy at the same time breaking away from the values of Europe. His supermajority in the parliament enabled him to do just that in a blink of an eye. But there is still hope. There is a chink in the armour of the authoritarian system and there is a pro-liberty candidate to use this opportunity.
Zoltán Kész, the candidate in question, is the director of the Free Market Foundation. He expressed his intention to run for the parliamentary seat in his hometown, Veszprém, at a by-election as an independent candidate. For a long time he was the only truly pro-liberty candidate in Hungary who represents Europe’s freedom-loving values. As a well established civic entrepreneur he decided to help people’s voice be heard.
Veszprém used to be a stronghold of the governing party Fidesz. The previous MP, Tibor Navracsics, was elected as the European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, so a by-elections will decide who will be his successor. Since the previous elections, however, a lot has changed. The notoriously apolitical people of Hungary couldn’t take the serious civil rights abuses from the government any more and let their voices boom in the streets.
Since Viktor Orbán gained power in 2010 he committed serious transgressions against democracy. He curtailed the system of check and balances by taking away powers from the constitutional court. Laws are passed a day after their idea is conceived, and many of them are ex post facto, so they have retroactive effects, and violate the rule of law.
The freedom of the media also took a serious blow, most recently by punitive taxes targeting an independent media outlet. Currently the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe expressed his concerns in a report. There is also a worryingly increasing corruption, a situation that escalated to such levels that the U.S. banned six Hungarians – amongst them the head of the tax office – form entering U.S. territories due to their involvement in corruption.
Instead of giving way to more transparency, the government attacked Americans for meddling into the affairs of Hungary. Fidesz is also growing more and more Euro-sceptic. Although Hungary enjoys huge benefits from the EU, Parliamentary Speaker and Fidesz MP László Kövér said that if Brussels wants to tell a country how it should be governed, then it resembles Moscow before the change of regime and so it is high time to back out from the Union. The EU flag then vanished from the blinding of the parliament. The speaker’s statement is ever so ironic, because in a new foreign policy directive, aptly named “Eastern opening” Hungary is drifting more towards Russia than its natural, western allies. Hungarian people have constantly expressed their will throughout Hungarian history to belong to the West.
Apart from the number of new taxes, the government is also in a frenzy to nationalize everything they can, ranging from private pension funds to the entire energy sector. This is already hitting the economy hard. Especially the forceful price reductions of the utility fees as they chased many businesses to the brink of bankruptcy. Changes are needed, and they are needed fast.
People were too slow to realize what was going on, so Fidesz secured its power in 2014 again, however, this time it had to cheat to achieve this. New election laws were passed to give the party next four years. Soon, however, people became disenchanted. The authoritarian measures were too much. Fidesz got so detached from reality and from its voters that the government can no longer assess how far it can go. Fidesz’s attempt to tax the Internet was the last straw. People went out to the streets. These masses however want a new set of political directions, they want nothing to do with the current parties. They want an independent representative.
Zoltán Kész seems to be the perfect candidate in the current atmosphere. His work in the Free Market Foundation has proven his dedication to democratic values and civic duties. An experienced public speaker, free market advocate and anti-racism activist he is not entangled in the deep running corruption of Hungarian politics, he is one of the many people out on the streets wanting their voices to be heard. Zoltán Kész enjoys the support of most opposition parties, but he pledges to stay an independent, civic advocate of liberty.