Friday, 6 January 2012

State of the nation

My morning shave was interrupted today by a report on BBC Radio 4's "Today" programme about Hungary.

It was talking about the big demonstration in Budapest on Monday night, where 'tens of thousands of people' demonstrated in Andrassy ut against the government's celebrations of the coming into being of the 'Basic Law'.

According to the government spokesman quoted, this simply removes the final vestiges of the old pre-1989 socialist regime, but to the protesters it marks another step towards what many people see as a new dictatorship. A huge majority in the 2010 elections has given the current ruling party a mandate to make enormous changes to the constitution, many of which seem to, ironically, be using democracy to stifle democratic freedoms.

One comment I read in an English-language news feed likened what is happening now in Hungary to the Fascist regime of Admiral Horthy in the 1920s and 1930s, where the regime curried favour by stoking up memories of old nationalist resentments relating to the loss of Hungarian territories in the 1920 Treaty of Trianon. Which is what we see here now.

The problem that Hungary now faces is that the European Union, of which the country is a part, sees human rights and democratic freedoms as a cornerstone of its values, and is making it very clear that it is not happy with the trajectory along which the current government is moving.

That would be bad enough, but this unease means that Hungary is not being given a loan to help it meet its debt obligations that are racing up to meet it in a few weeks time. Consequently the forint is sinking lower and lower (in January 2010 my British pound bought 290 forints, now it gives me 385).

All everyone is talking about is the state of the nation and what is going to happen next. We wait and see.

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