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Hungary Plans Muted 1956 Tribute as Refugee Crisis Corners Orban

Hungary Plans Muted 1956 Tribute as Refugee Crisis Corners Orban

People pass the Chain Bridge from the Budapest University of Technology and Economics through the streets of Budapest to re-enact the protest march of Hungarian students in 1956 which ignited the revolution and war of independence against communist rule and the Soviet Union on Saturday, the eve of the 60th anniversary of the outbreak of the 1956 revolution in Hungary. (Lajos Soos/MTI via AP)

Sunday, 23 October 2016 06:40 AM

Hungary will take a low-key approach to commemorating its 1956 anti-Soviet revolution as Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s anti-refugee agenda, concern over the state of the country’s democracy and his friendly approach toward Russia strain his relations with some of the country’s European Union allies.

Only one foreign head of state, Polish President Andrzej Duda, will join Orban on Sunday in Budapest, where both are scheduled to speak. That compares with more than 60 foreign dignitaries in attendance for the 50th anniversary a decade ago. Some opposition parties and non-government organizations are planning a joint protest against “the attacks by an illiberal government on what remains of democracy,” according to the event’s Facebook page.

“While it may be a stretch to say that Orban is isolated in the EU, it’s certainly fair to say that he doesn’t have good relationships with Western leaders and it’s no surprise no one is showing up for the 60th anniversary,” Attila Tibor Nagy, an analyst at the Centre for Fair Political Analysis in Budapest, said by phone.

Orban is fresh off a referendum he called to reject refugee-settlement quotas as an answer to the biggest wave of migrants in Europe since World War II. The Hungarian premier is one of the staunchest opponents of an open-door policy, having built a fence on the country’s southern border as he linked immigration with terrorism and cast himself as the protector of Europe’s “Christian identity.”

Hungary fought for freedom in 1956, opened the way for freedom in 1989 by taking down the Iron Curtain and is “now acting to protect that freedom” by keeping out migrants, Orban said in Munich, Germany on Oct. 17.

Illiberal State

The uprising 60 years ago was crushed by Soviet tanks and pushed about 180,000 Hungarians to seek refuge abroad in the West as the communists returned with brutal repression. Even as the regime softened throughout the decades, it was supported by a long-term presence of Soviet troops across the nation.

Orban, 53, entered the public spotlight in 1980s as a liberal, anti-communist student leader calling on the Soviet military to leave the country. Since winning power in 2010, though, he’s gained notoriety for using his parliamentary super-majority to pass a new constitution over opposition protests and building what he has described as an “illiberal state” modeled on Russia and Turkey.

Orban’s administration has frequently clashed with the EU’s executive over perceived attempts to roll back democratic freedoms, including the extension of his influence over independent institutions and the media. He has also backed Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton in the U.S. presidential election.

The national holiday commemorating the anti-Soviet revolt is frequently a stage for political protests. In 2006, police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse thousands of anti-government protesters, many of them Orban’s supporters.

 

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Hungary will take a low-key approach to commemorating its 1956 anti-Soviet revolution as Prime Minister Viktor Orban's anti-refugee agenda, concern over the state of the country's democracy and his friendly approach toward Russia strain his relations with...
hungary, 1956, tribute, refugee, crisis
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2016-40-23
Sunday, 23 October 2016 06:40 AM
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