Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

THE DEBATE

Mosul Offensive: New phase in battle for Iraq's second city (part 1)

Read more

THE DEBATE

Mosul Offensive: New phase in battle for Iraq's second city (part 2)

Read more

ENCORE!

Kiwi indie heroes The Naked and Famous reflect on life after 'Young Blood'

Read more

THE INTERVIEW

France's election: 'The Russians are doing what they can to bring down Macron'

Read more

FOCUS

North Dakota: Sioux tribe stands firm against pipeline project

Read more

TALKING EUROPE

Georgian foreign minister discusses ties with EU, NATO

Read more

THE INTERVIEW

NATO chief Stoltenberg: US is 'strongly committed to NATO'

Read more

TALKING EUROPE

Climate change agreements: The US blows cold, what will the EU do?

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

No mood to party: Some Brazilian cities are cancelling carnival

Read more

FOCUS

Our Focus programme brings you exclusive reports from around the world. From Monday to Friday at 7.45 am Paris time.

Latest update : 2012-01-09

Hungary's new constitution raises concern

In Hungary, concerns are mounting over the possible abuse of power by Viktor Orban's conservative nationalist government. The country's new constitution has changed the electoral law and its members now hold nearly all positions of power in the country. Investors and the IMF have been largely scared off, which has Europe increasingly worried about Hungary defaulting on its debt.

In Hungary, Viktor Orban's conservative nationalist government has a huge majority in parliament: more than two thirds. But is it abusing that power? The country's new constitution, introduced on the first of January, has raised more than a few eyebrows.

Orban's Fidesz party has changed the electoral law and the way parliament operates and placed its people in virtually every possible instance of power in the country. The new constitution even removes the word Republic from the country's name.

Now Orban's popularity has shrunk and some liberal Hungarians are even starting to call him "the Viktator". But what's perhaps most worrying for the rest of Europe and the world are the economic implications. The new constitution's provisions for the Central Bank have scared off investors and the IMF - at a time when Hungary desperately needs a credit line to avoid defaulting on its debts.

Talks with the IMF and EU could prove protracted. Hungary's negotiator, Tamas Fellegi, has lately indicated that the government is prepared to compromise, but given Budapest's recent propensity for what the Americans call flip-flopping, he'll have his work cut out for him convincing his interlocutors that this time the Hungarians' word can be trusted.

At issue are the constitution's provisions concerning the Central Bank, which critics say effectively subordinate the latter to a new expanded monetary council.

That looks like an attempt by Viktor Orban to circumvent the bank's governor, Andras Simor, one of the few people in positions of real power in today's Hungary with whom Orban is not always in agreement.

With the new constitution, Orban's Fidesz party has loyalists in charge of institutions that ought to provide checks and balances on governmental power, such as the constitutional court and the national media authority, whose members are appointed for nine-year terms - going well beyond the electoral cycle.

For over a year now, journalists in Hungary have been crying foul over the country's media laws - some even going on hunger strike.

Former anti-communist dissidents have joined the protest. "It's sad, and also disgusting", is Laszlo Rajk's comment on Viktor Orban's transformation from 1980s freedom fighter to power-hungry nationalist. Rajk is one of a number of veterans of the fight to bring democracy to Hungary who are now stepping up to defend it.

Following a huge and successful demonstration in Budapest on January 2nd, they plan to hold an opposition round table in order to come up with alternative proposals to put before Hungarians.

At the moment, many Hungarians don't know where to turn. The previous, Socialist-led government discredited itself through corruption and a famous case in which Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany was caught on tape admitting to having lied to the people. Now the Socialists have split, with Gyurcsany attempting a comeback under the moniker of Democratic Coalition.

That leaves Jobbik, the far-right party, as the second largest bloc in the Hungarian parliament.

In recent polls, nearly half of respondents said they simply didn't know who they could vote for in the event of elections.

By Gulliver CRAGG , Grégoire OZAN

COMMENT(S)

Archives

2017-02-20 Americas

North Dakota: Sioux tribe stands firm against pipeline project

In the US state of North Dakota, members of the Sioux tribe of Standing Rock have been defying oil companies and authorities for several months. They want them to scrap a plan...

Read more

2017-02-17 Americas

A closer look at former Colombian president Uribe's murky past

Colombia recently reached a historic peace deal with FARC rebels, but that's not to everyone's liking. In parliament, the peace process has a strong adversary in Alvaro Uribe,...

Read more

2017-02-16 Americas

Islamophobia on the rise in Quebec

On January 29, six Muslims were shot dead at a mosque in Quebec City, Canada by a far-right extremist. But the shocking attack did not come as a complete surprise to the local...

Read more

2017-02-15 Poland

Polish military hit by exodus of top generals

US President Donald Trump complains that NATO members don't pay their way, but Poland is one of only five nations that does meet its commitment to spend at least 2% of GDP on...

Read more

2017-02-14 Europe

German region struggles to fill jobs amid labour shortage

As the jobless rate in Germany’s southwestern state of Baden-Wüttemberg falls below 4 percent, the dearth of qualified workers means businesses are struggling to fill vacant...

Read more