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Orbán And Kaczynski, A Duet In The Key Of Fascism

As the populist leaders face sinking poll numbers and the nearby war in Ukraine, they turn to the tactics of racism and transphobia, which ultimately adds up to fascist tactics.

Caricature featuring Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and Polish politician Jaroslaw Kaczynsk​i

Caricature featuring Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and Polish politician Jaroslaw Kaczynski

Wojciech Maziarski


WARSAW — Soaring inflation, economic stagnation, pressure from Brussels and the blockade of European funds, war on the eastern front...

The autocratic governments of Viktor Orbán and Jaroslaw Kaczynski are facing a wave of adversity they have not faced before.

Their governed subjects are starting to get fed up, taking to the streets, blocking bridges (in Budapest), and chanting: "You will sit!". Poll ratings for Orbán's Fidesz party in Hungary and Kaczynski's PiS in Poland keep falling.

So the pair of autocrats are reaching for a tried-and-true method of distraction: inventing alleged "enemies of the nation" and pointing the blame at them.

Kaczynski has taken aim at transgender people to rouse the attention of the God-fearing masses — even if some voters from his party are forced to listen to the leader's stories with amazement and slight distaste.

Orbán, on the other hand, brought out an artillery of a heavier caliber. Last month, in his annual keynote speech he reached for arguments from the arsenal of 20th-century racism and — yes, let's not be afraid of the word — fascism.

He said that soon more than half the population of major Western cities would be from outside Europe and that the races should not be allowed to mix in Hungary. He suggested that inside Europe's open-border Schengen zone, at Hungary's borders, non-white foreigners should be turned away, even if they have the right to stay in the EU. Otherwise, he argues, the foreign element will occupy the Carpathian Valley, homeland of Hungarians.

\u200bHungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orb\u00e1n at the European Union leaders' summit

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán at the European Union leaders' summit


Racism or transphobia, or both?

Orbán chose his words carefully. He thought through his ideas and prepared his speech. This was, after all, his annual keynote address, which is always watched with great attention. It was here in 2014 that he gave his famous speech, in which he announced the construction of "illiberal democracy."

It now remains to be seen what will be the results of the tactics employed by these two well-practiced autocrats, who have taken cues from each other often the past. If I had to guess which of them will turn out to be more efficient, I would bet on Orbán. It seems that the racism he presents can mobilize and fuel public hysteria much more effectively than Kaczynski's absurd transphobia.

And that means that this time the Polish party leader, who after all has already spoken about the germs spread by immigrants, will be the one imitating his Hungarian counterpart.

So listen well to Viktor Orbán's racist theses, for in all probability it will be the leitmotif of the Law and Justice Party's 2023 campaign.

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Photo of people holding pictures of hostages held by Hamas during a march in London

Members of the Jewish community in London hold up pictures of those taken hostage by Hamas.

Jakob Mieszkowski-Lapping and Emma Albright

The Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s military wing, the al-Quds Brigades, has said it is prepared to release two hostages held in Gaza if conditions on the ground permit.

A spokesperson for the al-Quds Brigades said it is ready to release two Israeli hostages, a woman and a boy, for humanitarian and medical reasons. He added that the initiative would take place once measures are met.

Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insisted Thursday that there would be "no ceasefire" without the release of all hostages held by Hamas.

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Still, Israel will begin implementing four-hour pauses in fighting each day in northern Gaza, according to the White House.

Negotiations are still underway to reach a three-day humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza in exchange for the release of about a dozen hostages held by Hamas, according to two officials from Egypt, one from the United Nations and a Western diplomat.

A trilateral meeting with Qatari officials and the intelligence chiefs of Israel and the U.S. was held in Doha on Thursday to discuss hostage releases in exchange for a humanitarian pause and aid entry to Gaza.

The meeting, which included CIA Director William Burns, Mossad head David Barnea and Qatari officials, discussed a proposed plan to release between 10 to 20 civilian hostages in return for a three-day pause in fighting and the entry of further aid, plus enabling Hamas to hand over a list of hostages being held in Gaza.

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