Viktor Orbán’s pandemic politics

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s efforts to transform his country into an “illiberal” state have been well-documented: From working to curtail independent media to overhauling the electoral system to demonizing refugees and NGOs, he’s made significant progress toward that goal.

The coronavirus pandemic has given him political cover to make additional changes. For Foreign Policy, I wrote about how Orbán has used the pandemic response to go after mayors in opposition-led cities and towns. And for ICWA, I looked more broadly at how the international focus on an emergency powers law was a bit misplaced. The real Covid-related changes in Hungary—controversial legislation passed with little fanfare, efforts to undermine opposition mayors and the takeover and mass resignations at the online news portal Index—were more under-the-radar.

As Zselyke Csaky of the democracy watchdog Freedom House told me: “These less-clear changes that people were not necessarily focusing on were the ones that were more insidious and more dangerous in some way.”