Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s long march toward one-man rule in the heart of the European Union is about to hit a new milestone.
Shrugging off the threat of sanctions from Brussels, Orban plans to push a bill through Budapest’s pliant parliament Wednesday that will further tighten his hold over the country’s court system. The legislation will strip the supreme court of its ultimate authority over so-called administrative disputes — cases involving everything from elections and corruption to taxes and police abuse — and create a new court overseen by his justice minister.
A third-consecutive election win in April gave Orban, 55, and his Fidesz party a constitutional majority, making the vote a formality. The re-election also gave Orban a self-claimed mandate to continue the NATO member’s transformation into an “illiberal state” along the lines of Vladimir Putin’s Russia, frustrating EU efforts to maintain the unity underpinning the world’s largest trading bloc.
“We’re long past the point of no return when it comes to salvaging the rule of law, but even so, the creation of this rubber-stamp court is alarming,” said Mate Szabo, a lawyer and program director at Hungary’s Civil Liberties Union. “The EU has been totally unprepared to deal with it.”