Monday, December 12, 2011

French worries about Germany, Hungarian worries about fascism and anti-Semitism

This Deutsche Welle report deals with French concerns about Angela Merkel's policy of dominance in Europe, France: Running Scared of Germany? 12/08/2011:

This additional DW report talks about one facet of the politics of the hardline right, which is current dominant in Hungary, an EU member that is not part of the eurozone: Hungary: Censorship in the Theater 12/08/2011.

Paul Krugman calls attention to the trend to the authoritarian right in Hungary in his column Depression and Democracy New York Times 12/11/2011 and blog post, Central European Shadows 12/11/2011. In the column, he writes:

And in at least one nation, Hungary, democratic institutions are being undermined as we speak.

One of Hungary’s major parties, Jobbik, is a nightmare out of the 1930s: it’s anti-Roma (Gypsy), it’s anti-Semitic, and it even had a paramilitary arm. But the immediate threat comes from Fidesz, the governing center-right party.

Fidesz won an overwhelming Parliamentary majority last year, at least partly for economic reasons; Hungary isn’t on the euro, but it suffered severely because of large-scale borrowing in foreign currencies and also, to be frank, thanks to mismanagement and corruption on the part of the then-governing left-liberal parties. Now Fidesz, which rammed through a new Constitution last spring on a party-line vote, seems bent on establishing a permanent hold on power.

The details are complex. Kim Lane Scheppele, who is the director of Princeton’s Law and Public Affairs program — and has been following the Hungarian situation closely — tells me that Fidesz is relying on overlapping measures to suppress opposition. A proposed election law creates gerrymandered districts designed to make it almost impossible for other parties to form a government; judicial independence has been compromised, and the courts packed with party loyalists; state-run media have been converted into party organs, and there’s a crackdown on independent media; and a proposed constitutional addendum would effectively criminalize the leading leftist party.

Taken together, all this amounts to the re-establishment of authoritarian rule, under a paper-thin veneer of democracy, in the heart of Europe. And it’s a sample of what may happen much more widely if this depression continues.
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