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Opposition protests against the new Constitution

January 4th, 2012

Commentators from the political centre wonder if the anti-government demonstrations on January 2 mark a turning point in Hungarian politics. They suggest that the presence of tens of thousands of Hungarians on the streets shows that the Orbán government is losing support. Right-wing commentators, on the other hand, claim that the opposition uses the NGOs for its own purposes.

Ten thousands of Hungarians joined the mass rally organized by recently formed anti-government NGOs against the new Constitution and the reforms of the Orbán government, which they find undemocratic. The demonstration, which was also supported by LMP, MSZP and the Democratic Coalition, was held outside the Opera House, where the government was celebrating the Constitution which came into effect on the 1st of January.

Although Fidesz has lost half the supporters it could claim in 2010, the opposition parties have not gained popularity. But the January 2 demonstrations attended by tens of thousands suggest a major shift in public attitudes, writes Gábor Török. According to the centrist analyst, the success of the protest could indicate that Orbán is losing popularity.

If the growing number of currently undecided voters turn to one of the opposition parties, the left-wing opposition will organize public demonstrations in the hope of placing the government under pressure, Török speculates. If this happens, an unpopular Orbán government will have a very hard time in Parliament, despite its two thirds majority.

The message of the demonstration showed the limits of the opposition parties and their civic alliesVéleményvezér contends. The liberal conservative blogger notes that the mostly middle class urban intellectuals who dominated the protest were primarily concerned about the weakening of checks and balances. Véleményvezér finds the level of attendance at the demonstration remarkable, but adds that the event was still ineffective in mobilizing wider masses against the government.

“Infringements of the rule of law, government domination of the public media or the new Constitution will not create real public discontent.” Issues with an impact on the financial standing of Hungarians, however, could easily result in dissatisfaction with the government, Véleményvezér remarks. If the exchange rate of the Forint continues to decline and there are no new job opportunities, Hungarians may turn against the Orbán government.

This may happen soon, Véleményvezér notes. He believes that the two digit interest rates at the Monday Hungarian sovereign bond auction suggest that international investors are turning away from the country, which could escalate the economic and financial crisis.

The real reasons for the protest are not the new Constitution nor fear about the weakening of democracy, but rather anger over lost power, Gyula T. Máté writes in Magyar Hírlap. Máté suggests that the MSZP is frustrated, since it cannot influence what happens in the country.

The right-wing columnist also believes that the opposition parties themselves have neither the courage, nor the support to organize mass demonstrations, so they take a free ride on the initiatives of the dissatisfied NGOs instead.

Mandiner hints that the NGO-organized anti-government rally was hijacked by the opposition parties. In his ironic post, the conservative blogger also remarks that the opposition parties now seem to embrace street politics, which they used to call undemocratic and un-European when they were in government.

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