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How Has Viktor Orbán Been Able to Subvert Democracy in Hungary? Zsuzsanna Szelényi

Festival of Ideas

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Hungary was once the poster child of liberal democracy, but under the leadership of Viktor Orbán it fast became an autocracy.

Szelényi has been on the front row of the Fidesz party’s shift from liberalism to populist nationalism, as one of its leading member in its early years. She explains how the party rose in its success, solidifying its grip on the country and wielding considerable influence in European politics more broadly. Having co-founded Hungary’s opposition party Together in 2014, Szelényi argues that the global rise of populist autocracy can still be challenged. 

She shares her insider account of working in Hungarian politics – and what it was like to experience the sudden aborted democracy in a country that held such promise.

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Zsuzsanna Szelényi’s Tainted Democracy: Viktor Orbán and the Subversion of Hungary is published by Hurst Publishers.

Zsuzsanna Szelényi is a Hungarian politician and foreign policy specialist. In the 1990s, she was an activist and MP for Fidesz, then a liberal anti-Communist party. After working at the Council of Europe for fifteen years, she returned to politics in 2012, representing the liberal opposition in Parliament.

Zsuzsanna Szelényi, Maria Ressa and Simon Schama explore the cost of speaking truth to power on BBC Radio 4’s Start the Week programme
Zsuzsanna Szelényi’s interview on New Statesman‘s World Review podcast
Zsuzsanna Szelényi in conversation with RevDem editor Ferenc Laczó about the main characteristics of the Orbán regime and Hungary’s descent into autocracy

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