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Hungary's Freedom Election

Over the past 12 years, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has turned Hungary into a corruption-ridden "illiberal democracy" that is at odds with the rest of Europe. But now that the usually fractious opposition is united behind one candidate, Hungarians finally have a chance to show Orbán the door.

NEW YORK – When Hungarians go to the polls in April, liberal democracy will be on the ballot – and not only in Hungary. Former US President Donald Trump is promoting the populist prime minister, Viktor Orbán. Tucker Carlson, Fox News’ most-watched on-air personality, has traveled to Budapest to promote Orbán’s brand of ethnic nationalism. Nonetheless, Orbán is facing his most serious challenge since returning to power in 2010.

Hungary’s normally fractious opposition has finally united behind a single candidate: Péter Márki-Zay, the conservative mayor of Hódmezővásárhely, a small, rural town in the center of the country. A devout Christian with seven children, Márki-Zay is running on a pro-European, pro-rule of law, anti-corruption platform. He describes himself as “everything that Viktor Orbán pretends to be.”

Orbán, now 58, was a reform-minded firebrand 30 years ago. But over the past decade, he has transformed Hungary into an “illiberal democracy” where only his voice represents the people. During his first term as prime minister in 1998-2002, Orbán shepherded Hungary into NATO and the European Union. But after being defeated in 2002, he vowed never again to risk an electoral loss. Ditching his former pro-Europe, pro-democracy agenda, he embraced the politics of ethno-nationalism and anti-globalist grievance.

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