Thousands Protest Over a Constitution Which Dismissed Religious Recognition

Controversy has been raised over a new constitution that withdrew official recognition of over 300 different religions and placed large powers on central state. Thousands of Hungarians protested in Budapest against the diminishing religious rights.

The “Basic Law” which was passed in April, went into effect New Year’s Day. Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who drew up the new law, and his center-right Fidesz party celebrated its success in spite of criticism by Europe and the United States.

As a result, talks between the International Monetary Fund and the European Union over financial aid for the possible recession that Hungary faces in 2012 came to a screeching halt.

The increase in public unrest has been predicted to worsen economic conditions by discouraging foreign investors. Fidesz initially won elections by promising new job creation, however the lack of funding may now only worsen conditions.

Critics argue that the new “Basic Law” is un-democratic citing the increase of political control over the judiciary, the central bank, religious groups and the media.

Hungary President, Pal Schmitt supported the new law: "This constitution was born of a wide consultation, building on national and European values," he said. "Our Basic Law defines the family, order, the home, work and health as the most important, shared scale of values."

Major social issues in the law include rights of unborn children, marriage between a man and a woman, and the definition of life sentences. Critics also oppose the new electoral system which could likely favor Fidesz.

Fidesz MP Gergely Gulyas, dismissed such criticism: “Despite political debates we think it is an important value that for the first time, a freely elected parliament created the Basic Law," he said.

No protestors were injured during the riot as police immediately subdued any small scuffles that broke out. The protest was among the few that have broken out since the 2006 riot asking then Prime Minister, Ferenc Gyurcsany, to step down.

According to the New York Times, Petr Konya of the Hungarian Solidarity Movement, won favor in the crowd with his speech.

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