January 17, 2012

Is authoritarianism returning to Hungary?

The country’s new constitution draws international criticism.
Is democratic progress in Hungary on the decline? Recent changes to the Hungarian constitution aimed at strengthening the government's powers over the judiciary, media and central bank have sparked international criticism at the former Soviet nation. Observers in the European Union are worried Hungary is backtracking on 23 years of democratic reform since the fall of communism. On Tuesday, the EU Commission launched a legal challenge against Hungary for failing to comply with EU governance standards regarding the independence of national banks and the judiciary.

On Jan 2, at least 30,000 Hungarians gathered in Budapest outside the State Opera house to protest changes to the country’s constitution, which went into effect at the beginning of the year.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban - who has been dubbed the "Viktator" - maintains that change is necessary to reverse economic decline and bolster rule of law. However, many analysts believe Hungary is on the verge of bankruptcy and that the new laws may jeopardise Hungary’s eligibility to receive international funds.

In this episode, The Stream speaks to Amanda McRae, a Europe consultant with Human Rights Watch; Zoltán Kovács, Hungary’s Minister of State for Government Communication; and András Nagy, a spokesperson of the newly formed political movement The Fourth Republic.

What do you think? Will Hungary's new laws affect the nation's democratic future? Send us your thoughts and comments on Facebook or Twitter using hashtag #AJStream.

These are some of the social media elements featured in this episode of The Stream: