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Viktor Orban: Hungary's hardliner seeks to tighten grip on power

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Viktor Orban: Hungary's hardliner seeks to tighten grip on power

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In one of his early public appereances on 16 June 1989, Viktor Orbán gave a famous speech in Heroes' Square, Budapest, on the occasion of the reburial of Imre Nagy and other national martyrs of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. In his speech he demanded free elections and the withdrawal of Soviet troops.

In March 1988, Orbán was one of the founding members of Fidesz - originally an acronym for Fiatal Demokraták Szövetsége, which in English means Alliance of Young Democrats.

In 1989, Orbán received a scholarship from the Soros Foundation to study political science at Pembroke College, Oxford. Returning home from Oxford in 1990, he was elected Member of Parliament.

On 18 April 1993, he became the first President of Fidesz, replacing the national board that had served as a collective leadership since its foundation.

Under his leadership, Fidesz gradually transformed from a radical liberal student organization to a center-right people's party.

Fidesz won the 1998 parliamentary elections with 42% of the national vote. Orbán formed a successful coalition with the Hungarian Democratic Forum (MDF) and the Independent Smallholders, Agrarian Workers and Civic Party.

Viktor Orbán became the youngest Prime Minister of Hungary since the fall of socialism, serving between 1998 and 2002.

The elections of 2002 were the most heated Hungary had experienced in more than a decade, and an unprecedented cultural-political division formed in the country. In the event, Viktor Orbán's group lost the April parliamentary elections.

During the April 2010 parliamentary elections Orbán's party won 52.73% of the popular vote, with a two-thirds majority of seats, which gave Orbán enough authority to change the Constitution.

As a result, Orbán's government added an article in support of traditional marriage in the constitution, and a controversial electoral reform which lowered the number of seats in the Parliament of Hungary from 386 to 199.

Orbán's blend of soft Euroscepticism, populism, and national conservatism has seen him compared to politicians and political parties as diverse as David Cameron's Tories, Jarosław Kaczyński's Law and Justice, Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia, Marine Le Pen's Front National, Donald Trump, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and Vladimir Putin.

Orbán's second and third premierships have been the subject of significant international controversy, and reception of his political views is mixed.

The 2011 constitutional changes enacted under his leadership were, in particular, accused of centralizing legislative and executive power, curbing civil liberties, restricting freedom of speech, and weakening the Constitutional Court and judiciary. For these reasons, some critics have described him as "irredentist", "right-wing populist", "authoritarian", "autocratic", "Putinist", as a "strongman", and as a "dictator".

Other commentators, however, have noted that the European migrant crisis, coupled with continued Islamist terrorism in the European Union, have popularized Orbán's nationalist, protectionist policies among European conservative leaders.