Viktor Orbán triggered alarm bells around Europe in 2011 when he used a two-thirds majority in parliament to push through a series of measures that concentrated political power.
"Now Mr. Orbán, a right-wing populist, has attracted more red flags. He recently appointed a close aide as head of the central bank, one of the few remaining independent institutions, triggering a run on the Hungarian currency. Then on Monday the parliament passed extensive new amendments to the constitution Mr. Orbán introduced only a year ago, ignoring explicit warnings from E.U. leaders. The State Department said the revisions 'could threaten the principles of institutional independence and checks and balances that are the hallmark of democratic governance.' In Europe there have been calls for Hungary to be stripped of its E.U. voting rights or deprived of some of the $600 billion in funding it was awarded in the union’s new seven-year budget.
Mr. Orbán’s spokesmen insist this is all a misunderstanding. Parliament, they say, merely re-ratified provisions of the new charter that the constitutional court struck down on technical grounds. Changes in a new judicial regime and in a media supervisory organ made to satisfy the European Union remain in place, they say, while the authority of the constitutional court has been slightly broadened — the opposite of the interpretation of domestic and foreign critics. (...)
Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi has sought to soothe E.U. governments by promising to have the new provisions reviewed by the Council of Europe, a multilateral organization that promotes human rights and democracy. But Mr. Orbán has been defiant, declaring that 'the countries of central and eastern Europe should make their own policies without looking to the E.U.' and that 'we do not have to listen to everything the bureaucrats in Brussels say.'"