OP/ED#1 – Modern Authoritarian Snapshot: Viktor Orbán and his Anti-LGBT Legislation

Viktor Orbán is a classic example of a modern day authoritarian that I have noticed in spite of many headlines featuring him, he has slipped under the radar when it comes to general discussions that criticize him. The Hungarian Prime Minister’s recent legislation preventing LGBT content from being in schools or kids TV, shows that he is a man who wants more and more control of the nation he presides over. He is however not the first case in recent European history of anti-LGBT mobilizations. Starting as early as the mid-2000’s, “the Catholic Church, conservative groups and political parties mobilized against the government of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero and the same-sex marriage bill from 2004 (Aguilar Fernández, 2010, 2013).”1 Another example can be seen with Russia’s 2013 law against “gay propaganda.” Similar circumstances like these would also pop up in Croatia, Italy, Slovenia, France, Slovakia, and all share in common that they come down to petty policy debates, and only really seek to combat what is labeled as “gender theory” or “gender ideology”.2 Just like with Orbán, these incidents also all share in common that they represent a gross overreaching of authority that undermines the idea of democracy to the core.

The aforementioned legislation regarding LGBT content being blocked off, showed a complete disregard for the basic rights of the LGBT community, and in spite of pleas by European Human Rights officials and boycotts by politicians not in favor of the change, it still went through. These actions against the LGBT community only serve to erode relations with them that have so carefully been built upon not just in Hungary, but globally over many decades. Orbán has been labeled as a result of these actions as a tyrant, bigot, and autocrat, while his party has even been called out for essentially acting as a “hybrid regime of electoral autocracy” On the note of this last label, he is also alleged to have Hungarian state media under his control, and even has supposedly rigged elections in his favor, but whether this is true remains uncertain, though evidence points towards it indeed potentially being the case. If it is true, election rigging is certainly one of the hallmarks of an authoritarian leader.

It is evidently clear that Orbán seeks a traditionalist and conservative society that is not very inclusive. In fact, Orbán aligns himself with the idea that he is establishing an “illiberal state”, and even went as far as to say on the matter, “Societies that are built on principles of liberal democracy will probably be incapable of maintaining their global competitiveness in the upcoming decades and will instead probably be scaled down unless they are capable of changing themselves significantly” (Orbán, 2014). Yet again we see another hallmark of an authoritarian leader, labelling anything that is progressive in the slightest as being in some way, shape, or form an inferior system with inherent flaws, that make it a less desirable option. Based off of what has been looked at thus far, I think it is fair to say that Orbán is a man that bears some of the traits of an authoritarian leader.

The primary issue with the new legislation above all else is that it fundamentally ignores the potential for it to have “tragic effects on the mental wellbeing of young LGBT people.” For a legislation that seems to pride itself on the fact that it is protecting the young minds of those who are under 18, it simultaneously does the exact opposite. Dunja Mijatović, who is the Council of Europe’s commissioner for human rights exclaims, “The proposed legislative amendments run counter to international and European human rights standards. It is misleading and false to claim that they are being introduced to protect children.”

So what can be done on the matter? It is difficult to say as a regime change is likely the only chance for the new law to be reversed. Though with how much authoritarian control Orbán has over the country and its media, this may be a difficult task that will take some time.

Viktor Orbán – Image from www.populismstudies.org

HIST4606A Sources:

1 David Paternotte and Roman Kuhar, “Disentangling and Locating the “Global Right”: Anti-Gender Campaigns in Europe Politics and Governance Vol. 6, No. 3 (2018): 7.

2 David Paternotte and Roman Kuhar, “Disentangling and Locating the “Global Right”: Anti-Gender Campaigns in Europe Politics and Governance Vol. 6, No. 3 (2018): 7-8.

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