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Hungarian democracy 'reformed'

Hungarian democracy 'reformed'
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Hungary under Prime Minister Viktor Orban has brought in a new constitution in spite of strong criticism from the opposition at home and from other countries, European Union partners included.

The centre-right Fidesz party government is moving ahead ignoring protesters who say the new moves are undemocratic.

Orban’s government has taken advantage of its huge majority in parliament to rewrite Hungary’s constitution and pass a series of laws that would require a two-thirds majority to be changed.

This includes cutting parliament to 199 from 386 members and redrawing constituencies, which critics say favours Fidesz.

Among the electoral reforms, all ethnic Hungarians are granted voting rights, raising a potential for conflict with neighbouring countries.

And key posts in running the economy, police, military and legal system go to Fidesz political allies.

Conservative Christianity is enshrined in the new constitution, while the number of recognised religions is drastically cut.

Also in the realm of private matters, the foetus is protected from the moment of conception. Marriage is only legal if between a man and a woman.

New laws on all public and private media place them under the surveillance by a body controlled by Fidesz loyalists. Radio, television and print organisations are liable for crippling fines if they fail to comply with orders of political “balance”.

A new financial stability law confirms the flat personal income tax at 16 percent — also binding, like the other changes, on future governments’ budget policies. A new fiscal council appointed by the prime minister has veto power over budgets and can dissolve parliament.

The central bank loses independence under another law, which the European Central Bank said raises concern over decision-making. This puts any future adoption of the euro by Hungary in question. EU and IMF officials suspended aid talks with Hungary over the bank law.

The power to choose its vice-chairmen also becomes a prime ministerial prerogative. He names three, while the parliament names six of the members of the central bank board of directors.

To modify these new laws by a two thirds majority in parliament looks impossible for the main opposition — today the Socialists.

The US has added its voice to the protests from business, investors and the EU. Orban dismissed a request by the European Commission to withdraw the legislation.