Hungarian police briefly detained former Socialist Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány and several other lawmakers during a protest outside the parliament building where the government passed laws the opposition sees as a blow to democracy.
The Financial Stability Act will be one of the key elements of Hungary's economic policy framework in the coming decades, Economy Minister György Matolcsy said in the final debate of the draft. The minister commended the draft to Parliament for approval. A few minutes later, the new act was passed with a majority vote of governing Fidesz party MP's, despite the fact that the President of the European Commission has called on PM Viktor Orbán to partly withdraw the draft, which could jeopardize talks about a new financing deal with international lenders.
Hungary is trying to secure the deal with the International Monetary Fund and the EU to retain access to market funding next year, but informal talks have collapsed, leading to a downgrade in Hungary's debt rating to "junk" by Standard and Poor's.
Parliament also passed an electoral law, which critics say will change the electoral system in favour of Fidesz, and several other disputed bills, prompting opposition MPs to chain themselves to a barrier outside parliament in protest.
Gyurcsány, who headed two previous Socialist governments and is now a member of parliament, was forcibly removed from the protest along with several lawmakers from the green liberal opposition LMP party.
Police later detained the head of the Socialist party and several other Socialist lawmakers who tried to prevent LMP activists being taken away from outside parliament. Those detained were later released.
"(Prime Minister Viktor) Orbán's autocracy can no longer tolerate even peaceful opposition and protest," Gyurcsany told Reuters after he was released.
MP Gábor Scheiring told Reuters: "I have come here as it's a shame for the governing majority that people have to defend parliamentary democracy with their own bodies."
"They want to cement the flat tax, under which the majority of people end up worse off ... and the ruling majority of Fidesz wants to approve an electoral law today, with which they will take away the people's right to replace this government."
The financial stability law cements a flat personal income tax, which the opposition says would tie the hands of any future government.
A vice chairman of Fidesz said the protests were a "political parody."
Police said in a statement that by chaining themselves to the barriers, protesters blocked the entry of MPs to parliament, and did not obey police requests to leave.
"When due to the behavior of the demonstrators, Parliament became inaccessible at all entries, police intervened and detained 26 individuals," the statement said.
Péter Krekó, political analyst at think tank Political Capital said the police action was unacceptable. "These pictures which show police removing opposition lawmakers, well, we see such photos in undemocratic countries." "What the government can achieve with this is that its isolation from the West can become much stronger both economically and politically, and if the government goes ahead on this road, then there is no other outcome but failure."
Since it swept to power in 2010, Orban's government has tightened its grip on the media, curbed the rights of the top Constitutional Court, renationalized private pension assets and dismantled an independent budget oversight body.
Source: Reuters, CNBC
Last Updated on Wednesday, 04 January 2012 13:57