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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.

Svilen Veselinov Trifonov. The Rhetoric of Illiberal Democracy: Viktor Orbán’s Narratives of National Ascent and a Nation in Peril. Vol. 26, no. 1, 1 Mar. 2023, pp. 59–77


The rise of illiberalism and nationalism in Hungary is often attributed to Viktor Orbán’s leadership and rhetoric over the past decade. His ideas and words have also reverberated around the globe and served as models for conservative leaders. This article offers a rhetorical analysis with a focus on the role of the intertwining narratives of national ascent and a nation in peril as containers for the ideology of illiberalism. Taking a narrative perspective, it examines the way in which Orbán appeals to Hungarians to embrace nationalist, isolationist, and illiberal approaches to democratic governance. It concludes with a discussion of the implications of the rhetoric of illiberalism and the implications for future research into the rhetorics of the newest wave of conservatism spreading throughout the world.

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.