December 4, 2021

In Hungary, Protests Fail to Block Disputed Legislation

Former Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany, a Socialist, was among the lawmakers protesting, and he was briefly detained along with several other opposition lawmakers.

Parliament, where the governing center-right Fidesz Party of Prime Minister Viktor Orban has a two-thirds majority, passed a financial stability law despite objections by the European Union, a development that could imperil talks about a new financing accord with international lenders.

Hungary is trying to secure the deal with the International Monetary Fund and the union so it can retain access to market financing next year, but informal talks have collapsed, leading to a downgrade in Hungary’s debt rating to junk status by Standard Poor’s.

Parliament also passed an election law that critics said would alter the electoral system to favor Fidesz.

Andras Schiffer, leader of the small opposition party Politics Can Be Different, whose deputies chained themselves outside Parliament, told a crowd of about 3,000 people that the prime minister had betrayed voters.

“Viktor Orban wants to cement an economic policy that will push Hungary into default,” Mr. Schiffer told the crowd.

Mr. Gyurcsany was forcibly removed from the morning demonstration, as were the lawmakers from Politics Can Be Different, known by its Hungarian abbreviation L.M.P.

The police later detained several Socialist lawmakers who tried to prevent L.M.P. activists from being removed. Those detained were later released.

“Orban’s autocracy can no longer tolerate even peaceful opposition and protest,” Mr. Gyurcsany said after he was released.

The police said they had intervened because the protesters, by chaining themselves to the barriers, had blocked members of Parliament from entering the building and had failed to obey requests to leave.

The government’s financial stability law makes permanent a flat personal income tax, which the opposition says would tie the hands of future administrations. But the government contends that the tax will improve the economy’s competitiveness.

Peter Kreko, an analyst at Political Capital, a research organization, called the police action unacceptable. “These pictures which show police removing opposition lawmakers, well, we see such photos in undemocratic countries,” he said. “What the government can achieve with this is that its isolation from the West can become much stronger, both economically and politically.”

Since it was swept into power last year, Mr. Orban’s government has tightened its grip on the news media, curbed the rights of the top Constitutional Court, renationalized private pension assets and dismantled an independent budget oversight body.

The United States has urged the government to respect democratic freedoms.

On Thursday, Mr. Orban rejected the European Commission’s request to withdraw two disputed measures, a decision that could derail talks with lenders about a new financial accord. Analysts say the dispute could set off a market crisis.

The European Commission president, José Manuel Barroso, had asked Mr. Orban to scrap the two measures — the financial stability law and legislation on Hungary’s Central Bank, which the European Central Bank says infringes on the Hungarian bank’s independence.

The commission said it was assessing Hungary’s response.

The government has argued that the financial stability law is essential to maintain stable budgets and debt reduction.

Parliament passed several amendments to the Central Bank bill on Friday to bring it in line with the European Central Bank’s requests, but it left some contentious parts in. Parliament is scheduled to vote next week on the Central Bank bill.

Article source:

Speak Your Mind