Monday

29th Aug 2016

Hungarian leader accused of 'dictatorship' over new constitution

  • Viktor Orban has already been slammed by MEPs for his 'censorship' policies (Photo: europarl.europa.eu)

Tens of thousands of Hungarians on Monday (2 January) went on the streets of Budapest in protest against controversial constitutional changes enacted one day earlier by centre-right Prime Minister Viktor Orban, with former dissidents accusing him of "dictatorship."

According to the organisers of the rally, up to 100,000 people marched outside the opera house in central Budapest where Orban and other politicians celebrated the new constitution.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

Protesters chanted slogans denouncing Orban's "dictatorship", holding up boards saying "Enough!" and "Orbanistan" as dignitaries arrived for the event.

"Viktor Orban and his servants turned Hungary from a promising place to the darkest spot in Europe," Socialist MP Tibor Szanyi said according to AFP.

Earlier that day, in a statement entitled "The decline of democracy - the rise of dictatorship", 13 former Communist dissidents, a group to which Orban once belonged, accused him of "removing checks and balances and pursuing a systematic policy of closing autonomous institutions."

The letter also urged the EU not to "sit back and watch as [Hungary] is being held hostage by an outdated, provincial tyrant," and to "make a stand against" him.

Thanks to his super-majority in the Hungarian parliament, Orban last year passed a series of constitutional changes which critics say will limit media freedom and judicial independence. He also passed a banking law which has drawn the ire of the EU, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank for putting the Hungarian central bank under Fidesz party control.

The constitution now references God, defines marriage as a union between man and woman and life as beginning at conception, sparking criticism from international organisations and EU members.

In Orban's view, the new legal text "marks the end of the country’s transition to democracy from Communism" - as he explained in an interview with the Magyar Nemzet newspaper on 24 December.

Foreign journalists are "right when describing what happens in Hungary not just as simple governance, but a regime change," he told the newspaper.

"They say this in a disparaging way but I think this is a compliment. We Hungarians have failed for over a hundred years to show western Europe our own virtues."

For his part, Mark Palmer, a former US ambassador in Budapest during the country's last years of Communism until 1990, told the main opposition newspaper Nepszabadsag that "Hungary's ejection from the European Union is now no longer unthinkable."

The country "won’t be tolerated if it no longer counts as a democracy."

The former diplomat's outrage at Orban's constitutional reforms comes one week before an attempt in Washington to resume informal talks between the Hungarian government and the International Monetary Fund for a loan to prop its ailing economy.

An initial round of talks broke off last month because Fidesz approved a law curbing the independence of the central bank.

Orban defied two letters from EU commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso and approved the bill. His country's credit rating was also downgraded to "junk" by Standard & Poor's and Moody's.

News in Brief

  1. Hungary plans to reinforce border fence against migrants
  2. France's highest court suspends burkini ban
  3. Greeks paid €1bn more in taxes in June
  4. Greek minister denounces EU letter on former statistics chief
  5. Turks seeking asylum in Greece may cause diplomatic row
  6. Merkel becomes digital resident of Estonia
  7. Report: VW will compensate US dealers with €1bln
  8. EU mulls making Google pay news media for content

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. GoogleBrussels - home of beer, fries, chocolate and Google’s Public Policy Team - follow @GoogleBrussels
  2. HuaweiSeeds for the Future Programme to Bring Students from 50 countries to China for Much-Needed ICT Training
  3. EFASpain is not a democratic state. EFA expresses its solidarity to Arnaldo Otegi and EH Bildu
  4. UNICEFBoko Haram Violence in Lake Chad Region Leaves Children Displaced and Trapped
  5. HuaweiMaking Cities Smarter and Safer
  6. GoogleHow Google Makes Connections More Secure For Users
  7. EGBAThe EU Court of Justice Confirms the Application of Proportionality in Assessing Gambling Laws
  8. World VisionThe EU and Member States Must Not Use Overseas Aid for Promoting EU Interests
  9. Dialogue PlatformInterview: "There is a witch hunt against the Gulen Movement in Turkey"
  10. ACCAACCA Calls for ‘Future Looking’ Integrated Reporting Culture With IIRC and IAAER
  11. EURidNominate Your Favourite .eu or .ею Website for the .EU Web Awards 2016 Today!
  12. Dialogue PlatformAn Interview on Gulen Movement & Recent Coup Attempt in Turkey