Opposition protests Orbán’s dictatorial “state of terror” legislation

Over a thousand protesters took to the streets of Budapest on Sunday, to protest the Orbán regime’s proposed amendment to the Fundamental Law of Hungary (the new constitution introduced by Fidesz in 2011), which give sweeping powers to the government and completely sideline parliament, whenever authorities decide that a “state of terror” is imminent. According to the proposed amendment, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s cabinet may do all of the following without seeking parliamentary approval: restrict the media, forcibly remove and resettle people in specific regions of the country, initiate the interception and monitoring of personal mail, introduce a curfew, suspend the right to assembly, re-write the national budget, close all borders, suspend all public transportation and begin rationing food and fuel. This state of affairs can last for 60 days, any time that the regime declares a “state of terror.”

The organizers of the opposition protest at Parliament on Sunday argued that the proposed amendment will “once and for all end democracy in Hungary.” The demonstration was spearheaded by a small centrist-liberal opposition party called the Movement for a Modern Hungary (MoMa), led by prominent economist and former Member of the European Parliament, Lajos Bokros, who served as Hungary’s Minister of Finance in 1995-96, under the late Prime Minister Gyula Horn’s Socialist government. The demonstration was also supported by the Hungarian Socialist Party (MSZP), the centrist Együtt (Together) party, and the small Dialogue for Hungary (Párbeszéd Magyarországért – PM) green party.

Demonstration in Budapest's Kossuth Square, in front of Parliament, on January 24th. Photo: Dénes Lajos Nagy

Demonstration in Budapest’s Kossuth Square, in front of Parliament, on January 24th. Photo: Dénes Lajos Nagy

Mr. Bokros noted that the Orbán regime would declare a “state of terror” whenever it felt that power might be slipping out of its grasp and by doing so would “guarantee its power through dictatorial means.”

“Our future and our conscience cannot fall victim to the dictator. We will fight for freedom in all conditions and all situations,” remarked Mr. Bokros in his speech.

“The government can, with a single move and without parliamentary approval, shut off the internet. There would be no email, no Facebook. Nothing. Among many other things, this is what awaits you, if Parliament approves the newest amendment to the Fundamental Law. They can ban mail and they can not only monitor your phone, but they can disconnect it as well. Television, radio, the electronic and print media can all be silenced, or can be forced to broadcast nothing other than government announcements,” noted Mr. Bokros. The politician was savvy to explain how the amendment would impact nearly all Hungarians in a very fundamental, bread-and-butter way, as this seems to be the only way to get otherwise passive people to check back into the political process.

Lajos Bokros addresses the protesters in front of Parliament on January 24th. Photo: Zsolt Szigetvári / MTI.

Lajos Bokros addresses the protesters in front of Parliament on January 24th. Photo: Zsolt Szigetvári / MTI.

Some of the protesters brought signs that read “the terrorists are inside Parliament,” referring to the regime’s politicians. Many of the participants showed up with both Hungarian and European Union flags.

Mr. Bokros and the Movement for a Modern Hungary (MoMa) should be commended for organizing the demonstration. It is a mystery to me why the left-centre opposition parties in Parliament failed to take the initiative themselves and it is an even bigger disappointment that parties like Ferenc Gyurcsány’s Democratic Coalition (DK) wasn’t able to make up its mind whether it would even support the demonstration, a mere 48 hours before the event.

The Orbán regime is dismantling the last, remaining vestiges of Hungary’s largely demolished parliamentary democracy…and with the exception of a small party with no parliamentary representation, the Hungarian democratic opposition can’t get its act together.

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