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The Hungarian parliament has come in for a fresh barrage of criticism after passing a raft of controversial reforms, which critics say will weaken the constitutional court and muzzle the judiciary’s independence.
Other amendments implemented by Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s ruling Fidesz party include bans on political adverts during election campaigns and fines or jail terms for the homeless.
Some EU politicians left no doubt that the move was a step away from democracy. Speaking in the plenary session in Strasbourg, the Chairman of The Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE), Guy Verhofstadt said: “What cannot happen is that this plenary session in Strasbourg is ending without a decision of this Parliament on the case of Hungary and without any action of the Commission and any action of the Council”. And he added, “In fact, what is happening is that Mister Orban is laughing and joking with us by doing this”.
Weeks of civil rights demonstrations across Hungary have shown the depth of feeling at the changes. The opposition Socialists also boycotted the parliamentary vote. But parliamentary president Laszlo Kovar, has defended the move by saying Budapest had simply rejected the “forced path of liberalism”.