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VIKTOR ORBÁN: FROM SAVIOR TO DICTATOR

In recent years, the Prime Minister of Hungary, Viktor Orbán, has been referred to as the “newest dictator in Europe.” His strict policy on immigrants in Hungary, crack-down on NGOs in the country, and close ties with Vladimir Putin of Russia, show that the Hungarian leader is leaning towards the status of a Populist Authoritarian. His comment made at a university in Romania clearly demonstrates this trend and his plan to make Hungary an “illiberal state like China, Turkey and Russia.” Orbán stated, I don’t think that our European Union membership precludes us from building an illiberal new state based on national foundations… While breaking with the dogmas and ideologies that have been adopted by the West, we are trying  to find the form of community organization, the new Hungarian state, which is capable of making our community competitive in the great global race for decades to come”. Orbán is following a classic pattern; gradually transitioning his country towards an authoritarian state, away from the mindset of a populist ruling.

Viktor Orbán wasn’t always seen as this type of leader. On June 16, 1989, a young, liberal, democratically-driven Orbán gave an inspiring and anti-communist speech that demanded the removal of Soviet troops in Hungary. This event portrayed Hungary as a “beacon of democracy” to the whole world. After emerging onto the political scene in 1989 Orbán has had two stints as Prime Minister and created his party, Fidesz. The first time in he was in office was from 1998 to 2002 and the second from 2010 on. Orbán’s Fidesz, is a very conservative right-wing, populist political party. Today, in the capital city of Budapest, marketing for the party as a populist institution is “inescapable” . After regaining power in Hungary, Fidesz has worked at having total control. In a recent comment made by a member of the Fidesz, it sounds like Orbán has his party members wrapped around his thumb, all with the same populism and Euroscepticism beliefs, “Orbán grabbed power, took over the cash flow and chose all those who were loyal to him.” Fidesz is right behind their leader in the drive to be an illiberal state.

In spite of his authoritarian leanings , Orbán puts on the appearance that he has his populist and “Pure Hungarian” views to protect the people of his country from the EU, NGOs, Immigrants, and “The West” in general. Orbán has recently taken action against refugees in Hungary by detaining immigrants in metal shipping containers and establishing “border hunters” along the long fence that was erected on the southern border of the country. Orbán has recently made comments that demonstrate his racist, populist, and extremely nationalist views. Orbán stated that “Migration is the Trojan Horse of Terrorism” and has actually arrested immigrants who “threaten Christianity in Hungary.”  Viktor Orbán has made it clear that he doesn’t want any foreigners in his country.

In recent years, Viktor Orbán has been known to have close ties with Vladimir Putin and Russia, which is known for having very little to no human rights. In Hungary, the Fidesz and Orbán have eliminated checks and balances and has made other changes that draw the country away from liberty. The Hungarian Government has recently stated that they don’t take orders from the EU. Viktor Orbán has installed the belief in his fellow Hungarians that he is not necessarily leaning the country away from the EU, but rather working for a better EU.

Viktor Orbán is definitely not the same leader he was in his earlier days. His political outlooks and the actions he takes that are supposed to “benefit his country” have seemingly turned into what he was trying to escape in the first place. Hungary is definitely moving away from being a democracy, thanks to Orbán. The irony of populism today, is that “the people’s” idol can easily transition into an authoritarian leader, and threaten their liberty and safety. Watch out Hungary!

Sebastian Kurz: The Youngest Conservative in the World

Sebastian Kurz, the newly elected leader in Austria, is the youngest leader in the world as of right now.  He is 31-years-old.  Back in 2013, Kurz was elected the Foreign Minister at the age of 27.

During Austria’s most recent elections, Kurz took the role as leader for the right wing, conservative party, the People’s Party.  This group’s popularity took up to 31% of the likeability votes during the election.  The People’s Party had an attraction towards Sebastian Kurz already, because he held similar views to them.

Kurz is known as a “go getter”, as well as slick and opportunistic.  He’s young and determined, which is what draws the public to him.  After being elected, Kurz said: “It is my assignment to change this country…I will establish a new style in our country.”  Kurz plans to send the country into a ring wing and conservative direction.

During the campaign, Kurz focused on his distaste for the immigration policy in not only Austria, but Europe.  He believes that immigration is the basis for a lot of Europe’s issues, and wants to put an end to it.  He added that if he couldn’t ban immigration completely, he’d make sure that immigrants lived under strict rules, like making sure all immigrants became fluent in German.  As of 2016, European countries have been working together to control immigration by having it channeled through the Balkans.  Kurz, as well as other countries in Europe believe that this will solve problems for them, immensely.

Once he was elected, Kurz made a daring and controversial decision to work with the Freedom Party, a left-winged and populist group that is a known “enemy” of the People’s Party.  While they have very different views, Kurz believes that unity will help to solve future issues.  The Freedom Party lost most of its following during the elections after Kurz became the official leader of the People’s Party.

While some of his followers are anti-Semitic, Kurz has no tolerance for it.  When asked about what to do about the issues, Kurz responded: “The battle against anti-Semitism and our policy of zero-tolerance against all anti-Semitic tendencies is very important to me…It is a clear pro-condition for the formation of any coalition under my leadership…” Kurz is supposed to meet with the President of Austria, Alexander Van der Bellen, on multiple occasions to discuss a best way to control the problem.

Sebastian, while young, is determined to find change for Austria.  His followers know he’s passionate about finding a common good for the country.  Sebastian is working to find a system that best suits Austria as a whole.  Eugen Freund stated: “Everything he does is styled to the last breath…Everything is thought through: every movement of his hands, the way he gazes at people with a slight forward tilt of the head as if to indicate his attention.  He does not leave anything to circumstance…”

Sebastian Kurz, a young and determined leader, has impressed his country, thus far.  His determined spirit has made his followers confident that he’ll make decisions with the country’s best interests in mind.

He is expected to be a strong and successful republican leader.

Marine Le Pen: The New French Conservatism

After the fall of the French empire, Charles de Gaulle gave foreign people in the colonies French citizenship or special status even though they did not live in France. As a result, 10% of France’s current population originated from a French colony. Recent French policies, such as the ban on wearing religious symbols, have aimed to uphold France’s secular constitution. However, an increasing number of French citizens want to preserve French secularity by rejecting cultures that do not fit into the current national consciousness. Marine Le Pen, president of the far-right National Front Party, has become the leader of this movement and is against the absorption of Islam into French culture, stating that they are incompatible. A classic populist, Le Pen believes that only having one cultural religion in France would enable the country to move forward in one direction without political gridlock. Even though a portion of French culture is built on immigration and connections with the world, Le Pen’s version of secularism means isolation.

Ever since the National Front was founded by Jean-Marie Le Pen, Marine Le Pen’s father, the Party has been associated with anti-semitism, xenophobia, and reactionary policies. Most French parties refuse to work with the National Front, limiting its expansion. Supporters of the National Front are traditionally male blue collar workers. In 2011, Marine Le Pen took control of the party in an effort to appeal to moderate voters. Since the National Front has gained more support, the French political center shifted rightward.

Marine Le Pen is a strong articulate speaker who can easily convey her views to the people. Le Pen knows that the effects of the propaganda are most important, not the facts. Populism relies on assumptions and denial; many voters reject long analyses, preferring to read forceful headlines. For example, Le Pen blurs the line between Islam and Islamic terrorists. She establishes a fear among the French people that all Muslims are connected to terrorists, which is not true. The recent terrorist attacks in Paris strengthen her arguments. Le Pen rejects that there is anything radical about her party today, but has compared French Muslims praying on French streets to Nazi occupation.

Le Pen’s leadership is similar to that of the growing list of populist leaders in the world. She met Vladimir Putin in Moscow and supported the annexation of Crimea. Le Pen maintains that she puts French citizens first by cutting connections with the outside world, a reactionary policy to recapture past economic success. She has proposed policies that shun global companies in an attempt to grow the national economy. Le Pen also wants to leave the European Union and revert to the Franc as a currency. These nationalist ideals may sound promising to the desperate voter. However, leaving the European Union would most likely cause the Euro to collapse, throwing the world into a recession. Despite these disadvantages, Le Pen presents her arguments as the only solution to “revive” France. Le Pen’s supporters think of her as a “savior” who can break through competing interest groups. Even though this type of popularity can lead to authoritarianism, France has a checks and balances system and Le Pen is currently not in a high enough position to have a significant influence on government legislation.

In the recent 2017 presidential election, Marine Le Pen beat Emmanuel Macron in the first round, but was defeated in the second. Many French citizens were surprised that Le Pen and the National Front almost won the election. Part of Le Pen’s campaign strategy was denouncing Macron’s elite status, a tactic used by many populists.

The problem with far-right parties is that if their policies gain support, they can be easily  adopted by the mainstream right. Far-right parties, which have fewer resources and less support lose popularity, forcing them back to the fringes. This may have a self-limiting effect, preventing the National Front from ever gaining enough traction to become a leading party. In addition, in order to stay relevant, the National Front must constantly adopt more radical policies as the political center shifts rightward. This trend can be seen across Europe and is likely to continue.

Polish Puppeteer: Kaczynski’s Plan for A Conservative Europe

With no official title, Jaroslaw Kaczynski is the definition of the politically obscure, a petite man who speaks only Polish, does not have a driver’s license, and touts family values despite having never been married himself. In spite of all this, Kaczynski, alongside his late twin brother Lech, amassed a following of loyal supporters at an astonishing rate, and now presides over the Law and Justice Party which controls the Polish legislature. Kaczynski, in fact, is the founder of the Law and Justice Party, after becoming appalled at what he saw to be a morally corrupt Polish government, dictated by the same factionalized elites who had flourished under the Soviet rule. Addressing these so-called enemies of the state as “gangsters”, “cronies”, and “reds” in his various speeches, Kaczynski has convinced his Polish audience that he is working to restore Poland’s pride in its national identity and economic prosperity, the latter of which attracts voters, making Kaczynski a populist nationalist..

Often publicizing the names of those who he believes to be agents working against the state, Kaczynski has gone so far as to accuse Donald Tusk, an ex-Prime Minster of Poland and current President of the European Economic Council, of having conspired with the Russian government to plan the plane accident which claimed the lives of his brother and other high Polish officials, despite it being officially declared as an accident. Kaczynski’s blatant self-righteousness embarrassed Poland on many fronts, particularly when he attempted to prevent the aforementioned Tusk from being eligible for reelection as the President of the Economic Council, which was decided by a humiliating vote of 27 to 1, with Poland as the only nation voting in favor of Tusk’s suspension. This was not the first time Kaczynski challenged the authority of the European Union, which is currently in a fragile state due  the tremors of the up-coming Brexit. The E.U. could be pushed to the breaking point if Poland continues to deny its authority. Kaczynski himself has even questioned the stability of the European Union, citing its “institutionalized undermining of the nation state” as the primary source of its recent shortcomings. The political agenda of both Kaczynski and the European Union are also vastly different; Kaczynski advocates for his self-described “cultural counterrevolution”, a movement which promotes the idea of a conservative, nationalistic state with an emphasis on religion. These values appeal to the majority of Poland, a country in which 86.9% of its citizens identify as Roman Catholic and where 96.9% of all its citizens are ethnically Polish. This demographic allows for Kaczysnki’s anti-EU rhetoric to flourish, for the brand of conservative Catholicism often practiced by the majority of Poles clashes with the secularism of the European Union.

While many authors are quick to cast Kaczynski as a “canny populist”, for his overwhelming support in Poland and political viewpoints that align with Poland’s majority, it has become apparent that his belief in conservative values, much like that of the average Pole, is serendipitous, not calculated. Having lived through Poland’s transitional periods, in which its changed hands from Nazi Germany to the Soviet Union to its own autonomy, it is unsurprising that Kaczynski has fostered the idea of a Polish identity, much like his fellow Pole.

The way in which he goes about enacting legislation that protects his precious Polish state is undeniably authoritarian, from his censorship of the Constitutional Tribunal’s rulings to his disarming of political opposition by holding late-night voting sessions for his party. Kaczynski has continued to consolidate his political power under the guise of rooting out corruption, recently having attempted to pass legislation that would have allowed for Law and Justice Party to be in direct control of the judicial system, the last autonomous governmental body. If the international community does not rebuke Kaczynski’s actions, and continues to allow him to continue to dismantle the democratic checks and balances that limit his power, not only will Kaczynski be able to bring disorder to Poland, but also to the entire European Union.