Wednesday 18 October 2017

Thousands protest at 'undemocratic' reforms in Hungary

Charlotte McDonald Brussels

HUNGARY'S parliament is today expected to pass an amendment to its constitution which critics say will roll back democratic freedoms and weaken the judiciary. This potentially puts the nation on a collision course with the EU after calls to postpone the vote were rebuffed.

Thousands of Hungarians took to the streets of Budapest over the weekend to protest against the changes, which would allow the government to overrule objections from the Constitutional Court and push through measures including a ban on political campaigning in private media, a law requiring students who accept state scholarships to stay in Hungary and a ban on sleeping on the streets.

"When they lay down in the constitution how those who have nowhere to go may or may not sleep on the street then we need to ask whether it's us protesters who have gone crazy or those who write the constitution," activist Miklos Tamas Gaspar told protesters.

Critics accuse Prime Minister Viktor Orban of using his 2010 election win to consolidate power through control. Mr Orban frequently clashes with the EU, but has stepped back from controversial policies after pressure from Brussels.

On Friday, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso called on Mr Orban to urge the Hungarian parliament to address concerns over the amendments "in accordance with EU democratic principles".

(© Independent News Service)

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