The first non-democratic state in the EU
Hungary became the first non-democracy as a member of the European Union. According to the report of the Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem) project, which was published on 18 March 2020, the country now gives place to an electoral authoritarian regime.
The V-DEM is an institute based in Sweden, at the University of Gothenburg, and aims to build a new approach in conceptualizing and measuring democracy. It owns the largest social science data collection, has world-wide coverage and works with more than 400 indicators while classifying regimes.
In its latest publication about democracy in the world, it’s reported that for the first time since 2001, autocracies are in the majority: 92 countries (that are home for 54% of the world population). And Hungary contributed to this turn. According to the report, in simple terms, electoral autocracies are failing in providing free and fair multiparty elections, guaranteeing the freedom of speech and expression, and sustaining the rule of law.
In 2009, Hungary was classified as a liberal democracy. Then in 2010, Viktor Orbán and his right-wing FIDESZ party won the election while the indicators of democracy started to downplay. The first visible characteristic was the curtailed press freedom, which nowadays grew into a state-controlled media in the country. In 2014, the indicator of the fairness of elections fell. Then started the repression of civil society organizations. The report also contains an index regarding academic freedom, which in 2019 fell as well, it’s enough only to think about the Central European University and its forced relocation. The autocratization process was not going unnoticed as last year, a similar institution, the Freedom House Institute, stated that Hungary is only a ‘partly free’ country (also becoming the first member state in the EU which owns this title).
The question today is: Will the European Union answer to this change of terms? Both ‘partly free’ and ‘electoral autocracy’ sound like a prestige-loss both for the European Integration concept and for the country. In 2018, the European Parliament called on the Council of the EU to take steps in preventing the Hungarian authorities from acting against the EU’s founding values. The concerning fields were: judicial independence, freedom of expression, corruption, rights of minorities, and the situation of migrants and refugees. However, besides suspending the membership of FIDESZ in the European People’s Party, no visible measure was taken. The last press release of the European Parliament which questioned once again Hungary’s non-existent democracy (according to V-Dem) was written in January 2020, a fact that speaks about the failure of the Council in addressing this issue.
The author of this article is Vivien Aranyi-Aszalós.