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Christian Democracy or Illiberal Democracy?

In considering whether to expel the increasingly illiberal Fidesz party, the European People's Party must not allow Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán to hold himself out as a representative of Christian Democracy. True Christian Democrats reject chauvinistic nationalism and have been indispensable to European integration.

PRINCETON – For years, a conflict has been brewing between Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and the European People’s Party, the supranational organization of Christian Democratic and center-right parties in European Union member states. After much hesitation, the EPP suspended Orbán’s party, Fidesz, last March, and is now deciding whether to expel it.

It has plenty of good reasons for doing so. Fidesz has not only dismantled democracy and the rule of law in Hungary, but also demonized the EU as a tyrannical institution that is supposedly robbing Europeans of their freedom. Since Fidesz’s suspension, Orbán has hit back by arguing that he alone is the real defender of Christian Democracy, and that his EPP critics are sellouts to liberalism. Orbán’s posturing has seduced conservatives on both sides of the Atlantic. But the image he is projecting is false advertising.

It would be a mistake to think that the Fidesz-EPP conflict is mainly about political principles; it is about power, plain and simple. Still, the question of who will claim the legacy of Christian Democracy matters a great deal to Europe. Historically, Christian Democracy has been the most important political force behind the project of European integration.