The current crisis has reminded us how interconnected the world is. Developments which seem to take place somewhere far away can rapidly have the impact on the whole world. Today it’s the virus. Tomorrow climate change.
The conservative Law and Justice (PiS) government has conducted a calculated attack on the rule of law in Poland since it came into power in 2015, securing an overall majority in the Sejm, the lower house of the Parliament.
The restructuring of the state in a latently authoritarian direction is being pushed even further. The government’s worrying trend is particularly evident in the way it is trying to instrumentalize the COVID-19 crisis for the upcoming presidential elections on May 10.
On March 30, 2020, the Hungarian Parliament passed the so-called “Enabling Act”. In the future, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán will, therefore, be able to govern by decree without parliamentary approval. Despite the spread of the new coronavirus, this shouldn’t have happened.
Coronavirus has become water for the mill of all those who would like a strong central, authoritarian-like government. On the Polish radio, I have already heard the cries of admiration for the Chinese system, which apparently would be more effective than the European Union is.
Take James Bond for instance. Ever since the series’ soft reboot in 2006 with Casino Royale, there is not a single enemy country in the movies, despite the fact that Russia upped its game in manipulating the internal politics of Western countries, and China sugarcoating its increasingly Orwellian dystopia.
Hungarian politics in 2020 will be different from 2019 in a number of ways. After years of paralysis and disarray of the Hungarian non-Fidesz opposition, they are back in the political game after a surprise non-defeat at the municipal elections in October 2019.
The liberal order is still a relatively young system by and large. Over millennia before the industrial revolution and the ascendancy of liberal ideas did tribalism of some sort or the other prevail. The legacy of liberal order is undeniably impressive.
While Western democracy is showing increasing signs of uncertainty, people look, with quiet admiration, to Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping. The power in those countries is in hand, stable and effective at affecting people’s behavior and actions.