Skip to main content

Fidesz Party: Photo: “Election 2018 in Hungary. Taken on the 8th of April, 2018, around 23.35. Bálna, Budapest. Orbán Viktor announcing the victory of the FIDESZ party.“, by Elekes Andor licensed under CC-BY-SA-4.0. Hue modified from the original.

Massidda, L., Saccà, F. (2023). Viktor Orbán’s Approach to the Pandemic. In: European Political Leaders and the Social Representation of the Covid-19 Crisis . Palgrave Studies in European Political Sociology. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.


The Hungarian leader is the protagonist of this chapter, in which the populist leadership grapples with the pandemic crisis. Due to his decades-long rule, Hungary is described as an illiberal democracy: indeed, since coming to power, Orbán has done nothing but cry emergency in order to gain new prerogatives and limit the role of parliament. The “permanent state of emergency” has fostered a natural continuation of anti-liberal policies during the pandemic, which has indeed represented a context of real danger that reinforces the credibility of the narrative offered by the leader. The leader presents himself in hyper-masculine tones, like the commander-in-chief facing the virus on the battlefield. The analysis shows how the leader’s performative style is always brought to the foreground through the frequent use of war metaphors. The result was that, unlike Johnson, in this case the pandemic acted as an amplifier of populist leadership, accentuating the authoritarian drift.

The Illiberalism Studies Program studies the different faces of illiberal politics and thought in today’s world, taking into account the diversity of their cultural context, their intellectual genealogy, the sociology of their popular support, and their implications on the international scene.