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How Democratic Is Hungary?

Orban in Budapest, February 2019 Attila Volgyi Xinhua / eyevine​ / Redux

In his essay “Democracy Demotion” (July/August 2019), Larry Diamond laments the decline in prominence of U.S. democracy promotion. It is refreshing to have an American expert lift a mirror to the United States, writing that the country “has to repair its own broken democracy” before it can take up again the mantle of democracy promotion internationally. But Diamond betrays his biases when, expressing concern about “the wave of illiberal populism that has been sweeping developed and developing countries alike,” he claims that Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban “has presided over the first death of a democracy in an EU member state.”

The death of democracy in Hungary? That’s a dramatic claim, as ill informed as it is offensive. Diamond and other critics of Orban who assert that Hungary is no longer a democracy rely on a set of flawed arguments that are incapable of explaining a host of

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