For many, the first word that comes to mind when thinking about Hungary is goulash.
Like stew, made from a collection of unlikely ingredients, “goulash” seems an apt metaphor for Hungarian politics today, which has a confusingly mixed image of setbacks and achievements. Depending on who one talks to, Hungary’s current government is either undermining democracy or a shining example for its region. Parliamentary elections are due to take place in a few weeks’ time and, even more confusingly, the country’s firebrand Prime Minister, Viktor Orbán, is leading in national polls, despite the fact that his international image is regularly pummeled with accusations of authoritarianism.
According to the established narrative in the West, he has in mind one goal: to obtain and hold on to power. In support of the narrative, many point to criticism coming from the European Union. It is true that the Union tends to its flock with a heavy hand, punishing any transgressions coming from its member states. In the past four years, Hungary has seen a plethora of accusations delivered from Brussels over its democratic credentials, especially on the topics of electoral reform and economic programs.