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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.

Sonnevend, J., & Kövesdi, V. (2023). More Than Just a Strongman: The Strategic Construction of Viktor Orbán’s Charismatic Authority on Facebook. The International Journal of Press/Politics0(0).


Populist leaders are often described as “strongmen,” receiving a somewhat two-dimensional Western press coverage that cannot explain their local popularity. Based on visual and textual analysis of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s Facebook, we argue that he has a more complex social media persona. Orbán’s Facebook shows him as (1) a fighter against a variety of enemies, (2) a symbolic condensation of the nation, (3) a relatable politician with (4) a gentleness toward children and animals, and (5) a strong competence in elite political contexts. Orbán uses his charismatic authority on Facebook to draw the boundaries of the Hungarian nation, presenting himself as the iconic representation of “Hungarian-ness.” The building blocks of his image are constantly being adapted to the current political situation and to shifts in public opinion. The Orbán image is, thus, a fluid and pragmatic material with only a few core principles and its popularity remains steadfast despite the brand’s contradictions. Understanding the appeal of Orbán’s self-representation may help us better grasp populist regimes’ variation and success worldwide.

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.