Tagged Hungary

By Jasmina Dimitrieva

Are elections and democracy one and the same thing? Not only voters, but also elected officials sometimes confuse democracy with elections. Such mental attitude sees the internationally guaranteed right to public participation in decision-making reduced to elections. The inherent risk is that public participation in the formulation and implementation of public polices for common good, as enunciated in the constitutions of Europe, remains a philosophical concept, with the elections as a sole manifestation of democracy on the physical plan. While looking at the other side of the coin, it seems beyond imagination nowadays to have in place a democratic system of governance without first holding elections, and without a meaningful parliamentary opposition.

President Putin’s visit to Budapest on 17 February has raised eyebrows externally and provoked protests within Hungary. Many Hungarians feel that their country is drifting to the East, while its present and future lies with the West. Prime Minister Orban does have some valid points for explaining his association with Mr. Putin. What is more worrisome in the long-run is the authoritarian affinities between the two.

The streets of Budapest on Sunday, 1 February, were full of people demonstrating against their government. The policies of Viktor Orban, the Hungarian Prime Minister, are widely seen as pro-Russian. The timing of the demonstration was also chosen to maximize the reach of their message, as Angela Merkel was expected in Hungary in order to address the government’s commitment to EU sanctions against Russia. Angela Merkel did arrive in Budapest on Monday, 2 February, and held a joint press conference after her talks with Orban. It did not look that their meeting had gone well.

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