Orbán is no Vladimir Putin or Xi Jinping. He doesn’t put opponents in jail or brutalize them. “There aren’t secret police listening to us,” one Orbán critic told me over dinner. Zselyke Csaky of Freedom House, the democracy watchdog, told me, “There is no violence, not any kind of political violence.”
What Orbán has done is to squash political competition. He has gerrymandered and changed election rules, so that he doesn’t need a majority of votes to control the government. He has rushed bills through Parliament with little debate. He has relied on friendly media to echo his message and smear opponents. He has stocked the courts with allies. He has overseen rampant corruption. He has cozied up to Putin. To justify his rule, Orbán has cited external threats — especially Muslim immigrants and George Soros, the Jewish Hungarian-born investor — and said that his party is the only one that represents the real people.
Does any of this sound familiar?