Orban Gets Two Thirds of the Way to Illiberalsville

Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban, whose “illiberal” political project we told you about last week, achieved a resounding victory over the weekend, with his Fidesz party winning a two-thirds supermajority in parliamentary elections.


That two-thirds threshold is critical, because it means that Orban is now in a position to make changes to Hungary’s constitution that could pitch the country more decisively in an authoritarian direction. Expect to see changes to assert more control over the courts and civil society.

All of this means that Budapest and Brussels are set for a big showdown sooner rather than later. Orban has already refused to comply with EU policies on accepting a small number of humanitarian refugees from North Africa and Syria. His constitutional changes will clash more openly with EU rule of law and civil society norms.

What’s Brussels to do? Nothing is one option. But that would undermine the authority of EU rules that every member state willingly signed up for when they joined the union. Brussels can, instead, propose internal sanctions on Budapest that would suspend voting rights and other privileges — but those require unanimity among all EU member states which Poland’s government, which is ideologically aligned with Orban’s, would scuttle.

There is, of course, the prospect of the EU cutting its lavish funding for Hungary. That money has helped to fuel the country’s recent economic boom and enabled Orban to throw money at important rural constituencies. Whether such action would chasten or inflame Mr. Orban’s illiberal impulses is a critical open question for Europe.

Ferrera Erbognone, a small town in the northern Italian province of Pavia, is home to one of the most cutting-edge computing centers in the world: Eni's Green Data Center. All of the geophysical and seismic prospecting data Eni produces from all over the world ends up here. Now, the Green Data Center is welcoming a new supercomputing system: HPC5, an advanced version of the already powerful HPC4. Due to be completed by early 2020, HPC5 will triple the Green Data Center's computing power, from 18.6 to 52 petaflops, equivalent to 52 million billion mathematical operations per second.

Learn more at Eniday: Energy Is A Good Story

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It's a concrete example of a broader trend in global politics: technology is a double-edged sword with sharp political consequences. Artificial intelligence, for example, can help develop new medicines but it can also support surveillance states. Social media helps nourish democracy movements and entertains us with cat memes, but it also feeds ISIS and 4Chan.

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Increasingly violent anti-government protests in Hong Kong have dealt a major blow to the city's once booming economy. Tourism – an economic lifeline in that city – has dropped, and retailers are suffering from a sharp decline in sales. Now, six months since the unrest began, Hong Kong has recorded its first recession in a decade, meaning its economy has contracted for two consecutive quarters. Here's a look at how Hong Kong's quarterly gross domestic product (GDP) growth has fared during the past two years.

Tehran's Next Move: "We don't want an Islamic Republic, we don't want it," was the chant heard among some protesters in Tehran over the weekend after the government announced a 50 percent fuel price hike meant to fund broader support for the country's poor. Under crippling US sanctions, the country's economy has plummeted, unleashing a "tsunami" of unemployment. What started Friday as nationwide economic protests took on a political coloring, as protestors in some cities tore up the flag and chanted "down with [Supreme Leader] Khamenei!". The unrest seems to be related, at least indirectly, to widespread demonstrations against Tehran-backed regimes in Iraq and Lebanon as well. Economically-motivated protests erupt in Iran every few years, but they tend to subside within weeks under harsh government crackdowns. So far, the authorities have shut down the internet to prevent protestors from using social media to organize rallies. But Iran's powerful Revolutionary Guards Corps has warned of more "decisive action" if the unrest continues.

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13 billion: Building a single state-of-the-art US aircraft carrier costs about $13 billion, a figure that exceeds total military spending by countries like Poland, the Netherlands, or Pakistan. But as China's ability to hit seaborne targets improves, the Economist asks if carriers are "too big to fail." (Come for that, stay for the many strange Top Gun references in the piece.)

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