The Future of Europe: Resisting Autocracy w/ Zsuzsanna Szelényi, Ece Temelkuran, Orlando Figes & Misha Glenny

27 May 2023 – 17:30 - 19:00 BST
Hay Festival
Venue 1
Further venue details TBC

The Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna and Hay Festival present the first of a series of debates about the future of Europe. Journalist Misha Glenny discusses the rise of autocracy with historian Orlando Figes, author of The Story of Russia, Ece Temelkuran, Turkish novelist and political thinker, and Zsuzsanna Szelényi is a Hungarian politician and foreign policy specialist. In the 1990s, she was an activist and MP for Fidesz, then a liberal anti-Communist party. After working at the Council of Europe for fifteen years, she returned to politics in 2012, representing the liberal opposition in Parliament. Her book Tainted Democracy: Viktor Orbán and the Subversion of Hungary is out now.

About Tainted Democracy

The inside story of Hungary’s descent into autocracy at the hands of Viktor Orbán, told by a former parliamentary ally turned outspoken political opponent.

Hungary, once the poster-child of liberal democracy, is fast becoming an autocracy under Viktor Orbán. After winning an absolute majority in 2010, Orbán launched a series of ‘reforms’, fundamentally undermining the country’s twenty-year, post-Cold War liberal consensus. For supporters and foes alike, the rise and rise of Hungary’s prime minister is a vivid example of how democracy can be subverted from within.

Zsuzsanna Szelényi, a leading member of Orbán’s Fidesz in its early years, has witnessed first-hand the party’s shift from liberalism to populist nationalism. Offering an insider’s account of Fidesz’s evolution since its creation, she explains how the party rose to leadership of the country under Orbán and made sweeping legal, political and economic changes to solidify its grip on power—from reining in the public media to slashing the number of parliamentary seats. She answers a key question: why has Orbán been so successful, winning widespread support within Hungary and wielding considerable influence in European politics? And how can Hungary’s opposition party Together, which she co-founded in 2014, work to turn the country around?

Underpinned by Szelényi’s own experiences at the heart of Hungarian politics, Tainted Democracy offers accessible, nuanced insights into the global rise of populist autocracy—and how it can be challenged.

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