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Irritation over constitutional amendments and tariff cuts

March 13th, 2013

Népszabadság sees a communications trap in the Prime Minister’s decision to hold talks about utility tariff cuts on the day when Parliament had to vote on 22 amendments to the Basic Law. Magyar Nemzet argues that the domestic and international uproar is motivated by “something else”, rather than constitutional concerns.

In Népszabadság, Gábor Horváth remarks that Mr Orbán’s spin doctors, “Árpád Habony and Co” set a trap for the opposition, when he addressed Parliament on a court decision on the 10 per cent utility tariff cuts ordered by the authorities from January 1st. (See BudaPost, January 15) The court ruled in favour of the grumbling gas providers, and though the case is under appeal, the Prime Minister announced swift measures to enforce an even bigger cut in utility tariffs. In the end, however, Horváth is convinced that the price of those lower tariffs will have to be paid by the consumers. Nevertheless, Horváth thinks, the government has managed to shift the focus of the debate from the constitutional amendments to “a topic it deems more favourable”. He quotes the Prime Minister as rejoicing over the irrevocable character of the constitutional amendments and calls those words “unpardonable”, while describing the PM himself as “an unscrupulous man striving for absolute power”.

In Magyar Nemzet, Ágnes Seszták agrees with the Prime Minister in deeming the court ruling revolting, and warns that it may further deepen public mistrust towards the judiciary. Meanwhile she considers the ruling as proof that the often-heard allegation that the courts have been reined in by the government, are unfounded. Seszták quotes calculations according to which average utility costs are 50 per cent higher in Hungary than the EU average, while the average salary is just under one third of an average European monthly pay. She admits that Mr Orbán’s government “is opening more fronts than is necessary”. As an example, she cites the ban on commercial tv stations broadcasting electoral campaign commercials as an example of “superfluous muscle-flexing”. On the other hand, Seszták does not understand how to interpret Austrian Foreign Minister Spindelegger’s opinion that Hungary’s legislation raises “European juridical and good neighbourly” problems. In an obvious hint at the interests of the tax-stricken multinationals, Seszták claims that “the sudden uproar, mobilising Hungary’s well-wishers abroad and ‘jungle fighting’ high school students blocking the entrance of the Parliament building, is directed against something entirely different from the amendments to the constitution.”

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