Summary of Orbán

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As the democratic dream withers in many corners of the globe, Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán stands as Exhibit A: After rising to the top leadership position in Hungary, Orbán worked to dismantle press freedoms and other checks and balances that enable democracy. In this study – part biography and part analysis – Hungarian-born journalist Paul Lendvai takes a deep dive into Orbán’s career. His conclusions are harsh: Orbán cares little about the rule of law or about the welfare of his people. Lendvai explains the long-standing grievances that helped foment the rise of the right in post-communist Hungary and explores how Orbán leveraged these forces to consolidate his power and undercut liberal values. This biography gives a detailed account of Hungary’s turn from democracy, but it can feel bloodless at times. Readers get little sense of Orbán the man or of his opponents. Quibbles aside, Lendvai delivers an up-to-date analysis of the political situation in Budapest. getAbstract recommends this study to anyone seeking thoughtful insight into Hungarian politics or the broader rise of populist nationalism.

About the Author

Paul Lendvai, a Hungarian-born journalist, is editor-in-chief and co-publisher of Europäische Rundschau, a Vienna-based international quarterly. He was the correspondent for Eastern Europe of the daily Die Presse and the Financial Times for 22 years. He has also contributed to The Economist and written columns for Austrian, German and Swiss newspapers and radio stations.



From Humble Beginnings to Europe’s Strongest Man

Hungary may have emerged as a democracy after the fall of communism, but under the leadership of its current prime minister, Viktor Orbán, the nation has taken a sharp turn toward authoritarianism. In 1998, at age 35, Orbán became the youngest elected prime minister in Hungary’s history. Although he went on to suffer devastating defeats in 2002 and 2006, since returning to office in 2010, Orbán has exponentially increased his hold on the reins of power. Orbán’s party, Fidesz, has undercut liberal values and dismantled key checks and balances within the government. Though Orbán himself isn’t as brutally oppressive as Russian president Vladimir Putin or Belarus’s Alexander Lukashenko, he has repeatedly placed gaining fealty from his cronies above defending the rule of law in Hungary. 

Orbán himself came from modest means. He grew up idolizing his paternal grandfather, a dockworker who fought on the Eastern Front during the Second World War. As a boy, Orbán toiled in the fields alongside his siblings, harvesting beets, ...

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