Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Is Hungary moving away from democracy?

Thousands of people in Budapest think so.

Reuters takes a look at a large, anti-government protest that took place on Monday.

Centre-right Fidesz, led by Prime Minister Viktor Orban, won a two-thirds majority in elections in 2010 and has rewritten a large body of law since, drawing accusations at home and abroad that it has undermined democratic checks and balances.

The Basic Law, which replaced the previous constitution as of January 1, recasts rules governing many walks of life in what Fidesz calls a completion of a democratization process that started in 1989 when communism collapsed.
Late last week, as the Wall Street Journal reports, the government also indicated it was less than enthused about the prospect of working within the European Union to solve Hungary's economic woes.
The conflict is the latest episode of friction between Mr. Orban's administration and the EU over what Budapest sees as unwarranted intrusions into its domestic affairs by an activist EU that has been seeking greater authority over member states as it battles the Continent's debt crisis.
This time, the stakes are high. The standoff could scuttle talks between Hungary and the EU and IMF on a financial safety net to protect the country from turmoil engulfing European markets, which has driven up government borrowing costs and weakened the national currency.
Earlier this month, the EU and IMF asked Hungary to hold off on the central-bank law and legislation setting budget rules so their contents could be discussed during negotiations on any precautionary financial-support package. The fiscal law was passed just before Christmas.

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