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41 CES Open Forum Series

What Happened Hungary?

Sep 8, 2020 Zoltan Ádám


What Happened Hungary?The paper is concerned with the spectacular Hungarian democratic breakdown after 2010, focusing on political institutions and political economy dynamics the Orbán regime created. It argues that to understand what happened in Hungary after 2010, first we need to examine the unique system of political institutions of liberal democratic Hungary in 1990-2010 and the political economy equilibrium they generated. This was a highly centralized political system that produced stable governing majorities and institutionally insulated governments that, since the second part of the 1990s, have pursued increasingly populist economic policies. The result was, what the author calls, the political economy equilibrium of democratic populism that came to an end with the economic crisis and successive waves of fiscal stabilization in 2006-2010, wiping out two-third of the leftwing vote, and giving Viktor Orbán a two-third constitutional majority at the 2010 elections. Having become a constitutionally unconstrained leader, Orbán could then further centralize power and eliminate the system of checks and balances altogether, while creating the political economy equilibrium of authoritarian populism.