Hungary 'no longer a democracy': rights watchdog
Hungary can no longer be called a democracy after unprecedented democratic backsliding, a human rights watchdog said Wednesday, bemoaning the "precipitous" fall down the rankings of Prime Minister Viktor Orban's "regime".
The US-based Freedom House declared in its annual "Nations in Transit" report that Hungary is instead a "hybrid regime...in a 'grey zone' between democracies and pure autocracies".
The watchdog said the EU member had been a "democratic frontrunner" in 2005, and that "its decline has been the most precipitous ever tracked" by the group.
In 2020 Hungary became the first country to fall by two of the group's ranking categories and "leave the group of democracies entirely," said Freedom House.
"Hungary today can no longer be regarded as a democracy," it said.
Orban's government has "dropped any pretence of respecting democratic institutions," said the human rights group.
"After centralising power, tilting the electoral playing field, taking over much of the media, and harassing critical civil society organisations since 2010, Orban moved during 2019 to consolidate control over new areas of public life, including education and the arts," it said.
The adoption in March of a COVID-19 emergency law that lets the government rule by decree indefinitely "has further exposed the undemocratic character of Orban's regime".
A Hungarian government spokesperson dismissed the ranking and described Freedom House as the "fist" of the "Soros network", referring to the US billionaire George Soros who Orban has long accused of meddling in Hungary.
"Freedom House was once known as the bipartisan human rights organisation. With their Soros funding they've declined," said Zoltan Kovacs in a Twitter post.
"Anyone who doesn't conform to their liberal view, gets downgraded," he said.
Freedom House also reported a "stunning democratic breakdown" across the 29 countries it surveyed from central Europe to central Asia.
It cited controversial judicial reforms in Poland, "increasing state capture, abuse of power, and strongman tactics" in several Balkan countries, and also ranked Serbia and Montenegro for the first time as "hybrid regimes".