Tens of thousands of Hungarians turned out to protest what they say is a slide into authoritarianism as a result of new laws and a new Constitution.
Tens of thousands of Hungarians turned out last night to protest what they say is a country dressed up as a democracy but sliding into authoritarian rule. The demonstration came a day after a controversial new Constitution went into effect – one that is likely to deepen chasms between the European Union and this former communist state in the heart of Europe.
A wide swath of Hungarian opposition and civil society groups, including former communist-era dissidents, gathered outside Budapest's Opera House, where Prime Minister Viktor Orban and members of the ruling party Fidesz celebrated the new Constitution to classical music strains performed by the national orchestra. They held signs reading “Europe, We are sorry about our Prime Minister" and shouted “Dictator, dictator”; "Orban, get away!"; "Cowards!"; and "Victator!"
Hungary’s Constitution is part of an extraordinary consolidation of power over the past year by Mr. Orban in nearly every area of public life. Many of the changes went by unnoticed in the spring, when Hungary held the rotating presidency of the EU.
Since that time, journalists in Budapest have gone on hunger strikes, the constitutional committee added wording “recognizing the role of Christianity in preserving nationhood,” and Orban replaced the director of the national theater with a playwright from the far-right Jobbik party who is professedly anti-Semitic.
Yesterday, a coterie of prominent Soviet-era dissidents signed a petition lamenting the shutting down of “autonomous” institutions in Hungary and called on the EU not to “sit back and watch as [Hungary] is being held hostage by an outdated, provincial tyrant."