By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife
BUDAPEST, HUNGARY (BosNewsLife)– Hungary’s former Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány has led thousands into forming a human chain around parliament to protest changes to electoral laws that the government will introduce ahead of the 2014 elections, saying his nation is moving towards dictatorship.
Fearing the end of democracy, several thousand supporters of Gyurcsány’s opposition Democratic Coalition party formed a line late Monday, November 19, around Hungary’s massive neo-Gothic parliament building towering over the Danube river.
As darkness fell, demonstrators were seen burning candles, symbolically shining light on what they said were plans by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s center-right government to turn election laws into autocratic legislation.
The new laws would require voters to register two weeks or more in advance of elections or face exclusion.
Ferenc Gyurcsány, who leads the Democratic Coalition, told BosNewsLife that many voters will not be able to participate in the 2014 parliamentary poll.
“Twenty-five percent of the people to attend the election and to vote for any party just in the last couple of days or last one or two weeks,” he noted.
The government counters that registration is needed as many ethnic Hungarians in neighboring countries have obtained Hungarian citizenship — and voting rights — in recent years.
Demonstrators also expressed concern about changed electoral districts as well as government plans to ban political ads on commercial broadcasters and most Hungarian websites, during the electoral campaign.
Gyurcsány believes these measures are aimed at favoring the ruling Fidesz party of Prime Minister Orban, which now controls a two-thirds majority in parliament.
“He [Orbán] used his authorization to change Hungary,” Gyurcsány claimed.
“Hungary now is not a democracy anymore, but not [yet] a dictatorship. It’s somewhere between these two positions. The Orbán government is not considered to be a government for many people, but it’s a real regime.”
Gyurcsány’s party wants to ask international observers to monitor the 2014 elections and has appealed to the European Union to investigate the legality of the new election legislation.
(READ MORE AFTER THIS MESSAGE. CLICK ON THE LINK FOR MORE INFORMATION)
Farmotel Stefania is located in hunting area in one of Hungary’s most prestigious wine regions. Near hills, forests and lakes. It has all the facilities of a fine hotel and offers full privacy, huge outdoor space, sauna, grill house and much more.
It comes amid major changes in this post-Communist nation: To reduce campaign costs and state bureaucracy, elections from 2014 will only have one round — instead of two, as has been the case since 1990. Additionally, the number of parliamentary deputies will be dramatically cut to 199, from a whopping 386 representatives for this nation 10 million people. Gyurcsány said in separate remarks that Hungary may have free but “not fair” elections.
However Gyurcsány, a 51-year-old former Communist youth leader who made a fortune from privatization deals in the early 1990s, isn’t without controversy himself: He was forced to resign as prime minister in 2009 after a recording emerged in which he admitted to have lied “night and day” about the status of the economy to win reelection.
“I do not want to say that I was not responsible for what has happened,” he told BosNewsLife about the infamous speech to Socialists. “But beyond that [issue] we never hurt the democratic institutions or values. I think we always were fair to share what we think about this country, and what we would like to do with this country,” he said.
“We had very fierce debates, I had to face several demonstrations, but that is part of the normal life. But I never believed that I have a right to break this democratic constitution which is done by the current government.”
However, “This speech will be a part of my life,” he admitted. “It was a very dramatic, a very enthusiastic speech. It was similar to when you have a dramatic discussion with your friends, with your children. You use words suitable for expressing your mood, but it is not a dry description [of events].”
Gyurcsány stressed that, “This speech was turned against myself and against my policy. But to be honest I am very proud. I was probably the first Hungarian politician who was brave enough to say…what many people think that politicians are lying.”
He said he tried to make clear that Hungary can’t continue with dishonest politicians.
“We didn’t came into politics because we might have a good salary. We came into politics because we would like to change this country. It is not enough, I wanted to say,” Gyurcsány explained.
“This speech in the hands of my rivals and enemy became a nuclear weapon and I had to pay a very high price for that,” Gyurcsány added, referring to his own forced resignation as government leader.