Lendvai, a Hungarian-born veteran Austrian journalist, paints a discouraging and alarming picture of Hungary. For those who assume that the country, safely sheltered in the European Union and NATO, is well on the way to democratic stability and western European–style liberalism, this book will come as a bit of a shock. Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s 2010 electoral victory, Lendvai writes, “has put an end to the liberal democracy existing in Hungary since 1990 and has smoothed the path to a populist autocracy.” In Lendvai’s eyes, the willful, power-hungry Orbán has evolved from a dynamic leader into a calculating nationalist bent on closing off democratic options and ready to exploit anti-Semitism and anti-Roma sentiment. Although Lendvai’s indictment is sharpest against Hungary’s current leader, he makes plain that the corruption and economic recklessness of earlier governments did their part to bring about the country’s degradation. Not surprisingly, Lendvai’s assessment has kicked up more than a little dust in Hungary.
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