Political Discrimination in Hungary – Policy Solutions case studies

In this paper, we analyse political discrimination against those Hungarians who have been opponents of the government’s politics in the last few years. Although political and other types of discrimination are severely prohibited by Hungarian laws, and while freedom of expression is a right laid down in the constitution, it is not uncommon for the government to retaliate against those with opposing views, and the impaired democratic institutions cannot always protect citizens from these retaliations. The case studies of our analysis illustrate the tools the Hungarian government uses against its own citizens, taking advantage of the fact that democratic functioning and the rule of law are often just pretences, as the government could eliminate “in time” many of the checks and balances that are supposed to protect its subjects.

The ten cases examined in this study show that various forms of political discrimination – from employment dismissal to economic undermining – are present in both the public and private spheres. Though there is a good chance that most instances of political discrimination do not make it into the news, we still managed to bring case studies from virtually all of the main “points of contact” between the government and citizen. The judiciary, the media, education, local government, agriculture and the third sector are all areas where today it is inadvisable to oppose the government. Retaliation sometimes occurs not due to the government’s will but as a result of overzealous lower-level state or local officials’ desire to conform. Still, the government itself leads the way by utilizing the state to undermine its real or supposed political opponents.

Of course, pockets of freedom of varying sizes continue to exist in Hungary, and we cannot speak of a dictatorship. The courts and the Equal Treatment Authority often come down against the government. This shows, on the one hand, that the state has indeed politically discriminated against individuals and organizations, and, on the other, that some parts of the judiciary have maintained their relative independence.

From the research presented here, containing investigative reports, judicial decisions and case studies, a Hungarian Potemkin democracy is sketched out, whereby political discrimination is possible in a way that the state exerts influence not based on but despite legal regulations. Nonetheless, we certainly cannot proclaim the complete undercutting of dissidents – instead, we can identify a gradual restriction of their options. The Hungarian system is not best defined as exercising total control over opinion, but there is, in fact, government demand for such an outcome.

Visibly, this regime, which sees political enemies behind all criticism, has had and will have many innocent victims. The state has ruined (often apolitical) people who were simply doing their jobs. Nonetheless, they found themselves in the crosshairs of the government. The destroyed lives of these people – their lost work, their bankrupted businesses and in some cases even their death – are perhaps the best illustrations of why the protection of human rights and the prevention of political discrimination are so important in every instance.

Below you can read the entire study in PDF.

Political Discrimination in Hungary-2