VOX: Fukuyama -- the end of history could look like Hungary

VOX: Fukuyama -- the end of history could look like Hungary
Francis Fukuyama spoke at “Tipping Point Talks” organised by the Erste Foundation in Vienna on March 7
By Andrew MacDowall in Vienna March 11, 2019

The “end of history” could see more countries like “highly corrupt” “illiberal democracy” Hungary rather than Denmark, according to renowned political scientist Francis Fukuyama.

Fukuyama made the comments at a press conference at “Tipping Point Talks” organised by the Erste Foundation in Vienna on March 7, in response to a question by bne IntelliNews correspondent Andrew MacDowall. Fukuyama’s statement provoked an immediate and scathing response from Hungarian government spokesman Zoltan Kovacs, and has been widely reported in the Hungarian media.

Here Bne IntelliNews presents the transcript of Fukuyama’s comments, which also touch on the EU and Hungary, the Ukrainian election, and the weaknesses of liberal opposition parties around the world.

“Most of these regimes won a legitimate lection, maybe won a couple of them. But since that point they've been doing everything they can to make sure they never lose the future election. So the Fidesz party in Hungary has been gerrymandering districts to make it much harder for the opposition to actually gain seats in parliament and Orban has brought most of the Hungarian media under the control of his cronies and so forth and so you no longer have a level playing field for political competition in future elections so that even if an opposition figure was more popular they may not succeed and actually come into power and so this becomes a self-reinforcing system.

So I would expect that they're [hybid authoritarian-democratic governments] going to be around for a while. I think that Europe actually has a lot of levers that it could use to push back against this. So I believe something like 5% of Hungarian GDP comes in the form of EU subsidies and it’s really very annoying because it helps Orban cement his legitimacy, even as he's attacking the EU. And the EU doesn't have to do this sort of thing.

So I would think that you need - well, I guess the final thing I'd say is that the biggest weakness that keeps these guys in power, I think, is the weakness of the opposition. So in none of these countries, do you have a clear figure who has some degree of charismatic appeal, who has a clear programme. I think a lot of liberal parties all over the world have a lot of trouble working with one another and agreeing on a single candidate. I mean, again, to go back to Ukraine, this is the problem in Ukraine, that there are several liberal candidates that are running for president, but they just haven't been able to agree on a single platform and a single candidate, and therefore, it looks like, you're going to get Poroshenko or Tymoshenko returning to power.

But that doesn't have to be the case. And at some point, I think somebody's going to figure out how to do it. And even with the gerrymandering we could be surprised by a future election which one of these populists like Orban actually loses power so I wouldn’t give up hope on that. And I think that's really the main route by which you're going to stop the spread of this kind of government.

I guess the other sort of depressing thought I sometimes have is maybe the end of history isn't really a country like Denmark or Germany. It's like Hungary: it’s an illiberal democracy in which there's some degree of democratic legitimacy, some attention to the form of democratic government, but it's highly corrupt. It's not based on an open access capitalist order with free competition but based on a lot of cronyism and that kind of system can probably go on for some length of time.

So that's another possibility. So I don't know which of these outcomes is more likely but those seem to be two alternatives for the future.”