Saturday

29th Apr 2017

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The letter also urged the EU not to "sit back and watch as [Hungary] is being held hostage by an outdated, provincial tyrant," and to "make a stand against" him.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

EU slams Hungary for power-grab on central bank

The European Central Bank has lashed out at the Hungarian government over plans to seize control of its central bank, the latest in a series of power-grabs by the ruling party.

EPP group frustrated with Orban

Orban's ruling Fidesz party is getting too much to handle for the EPP group, as they are once again forced to defend the Hungarian premier's controversial actions.

Analysis

Orban set to face down EU threats

The European Commission and Parliament are to debate Hungary's slide into illiberal democracy. But the bloc continues to think that Hungarian leader Viktor Orban is not a systemic threat.

France still anxious over possibility of Le Pen win

Despite opinion polls that place centrist Macron well ahead of the far-right leader Le Pen in the 7 May presidential run-off, doubts are emerging about his capacity to unite the French people around his candidacy.

News in Brief

  1. Vote of no confidence prepared against Spanish PM
  2. Syria to buy Russian anti-missile system
  3. Germany seeks partial burka ban
  4. Libya has no plan to stop migration flows
  5. EU has no evidence of NGO-smuggler collusion in Libya
  6. Poland gets 'final warning' on logging in ancient forest
  7. Commission gives Italy final warning on air pollution
  8. Romania and Slovenia taken to court over environment policies

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceCharlotte Hornets' Nicolas Batum Tells Kids to "Eat Well, Drink Well, Move!"
  2. ECR GroupSyed Kamall: We Need a New, More Honest Relationship With Turkey
  3. Counter BalanceParliament Sends Strong Signal to the EIB: Time to Act on Climate Change
  4. ACCARisks and Opportunities of Blockchain and Shared Ledgers Technologies in Financial Services
  5. UNICEFRace Against Time to Save Millions of Lives in Yemen
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersDeveloping Independent Russian-Language Media in the Baltic Countries
  7. Swedish EnterprisesReform of the European Electricity Market: Lessons from the Nordics, Brussels 2 May
  8. Malta EU 2017Green Light Given for New EU Regulation to Bolster External Border Checks
  9. Counter BalanceCall for EU Commission to Withdraw Support of Trans-Adriatic Pipeline
  10. ACCAEconomic Confidence at Highest Since 2015
  11. European Federation of Allergy and Airways60%-90% of Your Life Is Spent Indoors. How Does Poor Indoor Air Quality Affect You?
  12. European Gaming and Betting AssociationCJEU Confirms Obligation for a Transparent Licensing Process

Latest News

  1. EP chief faces questions after homophobic 'summit'
  2. EU signals Northern Ireland could join if united with Ireland
  3. One year later: EU right to open Internet still virtual
  4. Rethinking Europe's relationship with Turkey
  5. Mob storms Macedonian parliament
  6. MEPs retain secrecy on office spending
  7. May accuses EU-27 of 'lining up against Britain'
  8. Resurrected Renzi to regain leadership of Italy's ruling party