Controversial changes to Hungarian constitution have protesters, EU taking notice

The Takeaway

The new year ushered in changes to the Hungarian Constitution that have many declaring them the end of democracy in the country.

Some say the changes will put the country’s membership in the European Union in jeopardy. A few really vocal protesters say the government is set on establishing a dictatorship in the country.

“International opinion is right to be very alarmed about what is happening here,” David Dorosz, an opposition parliamentarian, said to the Financial Times.

Viktor Orban was elected prime minister some 20 months ago, saying that the courts, legislatures and democratic systems put in place after the fall of communism simply were not working. It was a popular message at the time.

Critics say the new laws, which change the ways judges and trials are appointed and managed, set a flat personal income tax and also adjust the electoral boundaries, make it so Orban’s Fidesz party will have considerable influence even after it were to be defeated in an election.

On Wednesday, the European Commission announced it was beginning a formal review of the new constitution and other laws passed to see if they clash with the Lisbon Treaty, which governs membership in the European Union.

Tens of thousands of Hungarians have taken to the streets to protest the new constitution. Some opposition parliamentarians, like Dorosz, even chained themselves to railings outside the parliament building to protest the laws being passed.

The government dismisses the criticism as insults being hurled by those who have lost an election.

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