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Tens of Thousands Rally in Hungary Against Attacks on Democracy


A woman holds up a sign during a protest in central Budapest January 2, 2012. The demonstrators are protesting against the government and new Basic Law which replaced the country's Constitution on January 1, in a show of angst at what they say is the ruling Fidesz party's heavy-handed policies. The sign reads "Enough!" (Reuters/Laszlo Balogh)

Agencies are reporting that tens of thousands have protested in Budapest against Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban's assault on democracy. The protest comes a day after Hungary's new Constitution took effect.

The New York Times reports that

"Monday’s rally was a previously unseen show of unity by various opposition parties and civil groups, and timed to coincide with the extravagant gala organized by Fidesz to celebrate the signing of the Constitution."

Orban's Fidesz party has used the new Constitution to tighten its grip on media. From The Guardian:

"The demonstration near the city's opera house comes amid rising anger with the ruling Fidesz party, which critics – including the US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton – fear is eroding individual liberties and media freedom while undermining the independence of the judiciary and other state institutions. Across town, outside the headquarters of the state broadcaster MTV, journalists have been on hunger strike since 9 December, protesting at what they say is gross interference in their work by pro-government editors. They were outraged after a former chief justice was airbrushed out of a state television broadcast, evoking the dark days of media manipulation during the Soviet era."

Sandor Szekely, co-chairman of the Solidarity movement which organized the rally, told Reuters:

"If they hadn't ruined the economy along with democratic values, the anger might be less intense, but they systematically ruin everyone, so people are enraged,"

More from The New York Times:

Petr Konya of the Hungarian Solidarity Movement, which helped organize the demonstrations, told the cheering crowd that 2012 would be a year of hope.

“We want the rule of law back and we want the republic back,” Mr. Konya said to loud cheers. “Viktor Orban forgot that the power belongs to the people, it belongs to us, and we will get it back from them.”

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