There are several ingredients for a successful democracy: the rule of law, opposition parties working without harassment, and a free press able to discuss every issue from every angle. Viktor Orban won a landslide victory in Hungary’s elections last weekend, reflecting public support that is far wider than his critics allow. But was it the result of a free and fair debate?
This week, the last serious independent Hungarian daily newspaper closed. Magyar Nemet — and its sister radio station Lanchid Radio — have been unable to recover from financial problems which have been exacerbated by government advertising being withdrawn from troublesome newspapers and ploughed into friendly ones. Almost every national and regional newspaper in Hungary is now owned by businessmen loyal to Mr Orban.
He argues that his political power comes from a large democratic mandate. But any democrat ought to relish debate and challenges to government power. The fate of Hungary’s newspapers — and its civil society groups — suggest that Mr Orban would prefer to rule unchallenged.
This leader article originally appeared in this week’s Spectator, out now