Hungary. According to Countryaah.com, Hungary population in 2020 is estimated at 9,660,362. Hungary emerged during the year as Kremlin’s political and ideological ally in the EU. When Moscow annexed Crimea in Ukraine and talked about the protection of ethnic Russians, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán spoke as protector of Hungarians outside Hungary’s borders. When Russian nationalists spoke of a new Greater Russia, Orbán advocated the autonomy of Hungarians in southwestern Ukraine and increased autonomy of Hungarians in Romania. Nationalist and fascist groups in Hungary talked about the Great Hungarians, and right-wing extremist Jobbik supported the Kremlin’s annexation of Crimea.
Orbán’s proximity to Moscow was also economical. In January, he visited Moscow and signed a series of agreements with Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin. Russian state-owned Rosatom was awarded a contract on the basis of two new nuclear reactors to be financed with cheap Russian loans to NATO and the EU country. The opposition spoke of a coup by Orbán, but Parliament approved the agreement.
On location in the Kremlin, Orbán praised the Russian leader. Later in the year, Hungary pledged to Russian threat to turn off gas supplies and stopped sending Russian gas back to Ukraine.
In a speech, Orbán explained that the era of liberal democracy was over. He cited authoritarian countries such as the Russian Federation, China and Turkey as the role model for the Western world, which he said lost competitiveness through the financial crisis. Hungary would not be an economic colony or loan slave under Brussels or multinational corporations and banks, and the welfare state would be replaced by a welfare state, according to Orbán.
Before the April parliamentary elections, three opposition parties had come together in a joint list, but when Orbán held a Budapest general election, about 100,000 people listened to his speech about how the government was growing the economy. According to the European OSCE, the Fidesz government party favored partisan media coverage in the electoral movement.
Fidesz won the election clearly, even though the party lost its absolute majority in parliament. When Orbán’s government changed the electoral system, the party’s just over 45% of the votes were for a two-thirds majority. Thus, Fidesz alone can continue to change the Constitution. The opposition alliance got just over 25% of the vote, and right-wing extremist Jobbik went up to just over 20%. In response, tens of thousands of people participated in a manifestation against anti-Semitism in the capital Budapest.
In May, the first conviction for war crimes fell under a new law that allows prosecution for crimes committed in 1956 under the communist regime. 92-year-old Béla Biszku was sentenced to prison for five and a half years for co-responsibility when about 50 people were shot dead in connection with the Soviet invasion.
In the European elections in May, Fidesz clearly won by more than half the votes and twelve of Hungary’s 20 seats. Jobbik came in second with close to 15%. The turnout was below 29%. Jobbik had challenged in court a TV channel’s description of the party as “on the far right of Parliament”. The channel had been released in the lower court, but Jobbik had appealed and in June the Supreme Court ruling came to the party’s advantage. According to the judgment, media must not describe Jobbik as right-wing extremist, since the party itself does not consider it to be.
In June, Parliament passed a 40% tax bill on commercial media advertising revenue. According to the government, a large part of the media supply is a threat to society, and critics saw the tax as a way to stifle media freedom. Like the Kremlin, the Hungarian government questioned voluntary organizations that receive support from abroad. Among other organizations supported by Norway were forced to document their activities for the authorities. This was the case, for example, against those who work against corruption and who were accused of ties to the Hungarian left. In September, police raided two voluntary organizations that had Norwegian government support. Orbán also announced a new parliamentary committee to monitor the influence of foreigners in Hungary.
Parliament decided in the autumn that banks should compensate borrowers for interest rate increases on loans taken in foreign currency before the financial crisis. The banks were also banned from raising interest rates and fees before 2016. Orbán appointed Foreign Minister Tibor Navracsics as the new Hungarian EU Commissioner, but the European Parliament’s Culture and Education Committee voted him down as cultural, education and citizenship officer. Navracsics was criticized for its part in the Hungarian government’s anti-democratic politics and legislation. However, he was later approved as Education, Culture, Youth and Sports Commissioner.
In October, around 100,000 people in Budapest demonstrated against a planned tax on the Internet and the government’s anti-democratic policy. Internet taxes were shrinking after the protests. In November, thousands of people demonstrated and demanded Prime Minister Orbán’s departure with charges of corruption and too close ties to the Kremlin. The United States decided on a ban on entry for the Hungarian tax administration’s chief on suspicion of involvement in corruption.