April 16, 2014 | by Máté Hajba Print

The reelection of Hungary’s governing party, Fidesz, is bad news for investors and liberals alike since Fidesz did its best to nationalize assets and strengthen government power. The bad news was compounded by the third-place finish of the country’s ultranationalist party, Jobbik, which gained a significant number of seats in the election.

Fidesz, a self-proclaimed center-right party, enjoyed a two-thirds majority in the previous term, giving them absolute power. This will continue in the new term.

Hungary’s shame, Jobbik, a party accused of racism and anti-Semitism, gained 20.5 percent, It was more popular than other opposition parties in many districts, especially in east Hungary. Although a coalition of five socialist parties gained more votes, Jobbik is now the second biggest single party in the country. This party opposes the EU, Jews, and Romas. It has staged paramilitary marches and called for the public listing of Jewish individuals. Yet it has managed to become the biggest far-right party in the EU. That success shows how desperate people became and how inept the other parties are. If this goes on, fascist hatred could once again try to seize power over the continent. Hungary might be a small country, but it doesn’t take much to start an avalanche.

Fidesz presents no bright future either. Its disregard for democratic values – it gerrymandered the voting system to assure its control -- and opposition to the free-market economy is taking its toll on Hungary. The governing party has so far nationalized pension funds, reduced utility fees, and implemented the highest VAT in the world, just to name a few of its interventionist deeds. Extremely high taxes and extensive regulations discourage investors and will hurt the country in the long term. Economic conditions are unpredictable because Fidesz can change its positions in a blink of an eye. This happened domestically when it suddenly imposed taxes or nationalizations, but it also happened in international affairs when Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, a staunch opponent of Soviet and then Russian influence, endorsed less-than-democratic acts of Vladimir Putin.  Orbán has also put Hungary in debt to Putin.

Fidesz further extended government power. Besides the nationalization of pension funds, there is talk about nationalizing the energy sector as well, creating one huge nonprofit provider. The state also has done its best to influence future generations by nationalizing the textbook industry and making the study ethics or (Christian) religion compulsory. The party caused an international uproar by exercising control over the media, creating the power to define what the media cannot say, show, or do when the state deems it inappropriate.

During the communist regime, young Orbán, who has been prime minister since 2010, was a dedicated classical liberal. He called for democratic changes, small government, and a free-market economy. But when the communist era ended and democracy was hatching, he became a nationalist Christian conservative. Instead of free trade with the EU, Orbán wants to shut the gates to stop money flowing out. But the truth is that a huge amount of money flows into the country because of EU trade.

Fidesz’s landslide victory is grave news for Hungary’s underrepresented liberals. Since no party had come forth with a truly liberal agenda, many liberals voted for the socialist opposition coalition. But the coalition had a poor showing because it was identified with two unpopular previous prime ministers and other unpopular politicians, and the campaign was tainted by scandal.

A grim four years lie ahead. More megalomaniac changes and anticapitalist propaganda are to come, spiked by strong nationalistic measures. The fragile economy cannot take another term of abuse, nor can the country’s youth. Many have left the country in search of better conditions, and in the next four years many more will follow. This unfortunately means that liberal youth, who could oppose the ruling power, won’t be present to do so. It is high time that the people of Hungary woke up lest they lose their freedom in their blind stupor.

Máté Hajba portrait
Máté Hajba is the director of the Free Market Foundation in Hungary. He is interested in the relationship of the state and the individual on which he promotes a libertarian perspective. Learn More about Máté Hajba >