The Washington Post

Hungary loses ‘Republic’ in name, and protests fill capital

Demonstrators crowded the Hungarian capital of Budapest Monday night to protest a new constitution they declared “anti-democratic.” Many demanded Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s resignation.

Hungarians protest against Prime Minister Viktor Orban and the country's new constitution in Budapest, Jan. 2, 2012. (Bela Szandelszky/Associated Press)

Civil rights and opposition groups organized the protests after the country’s new constitution came into effect Jan. 1. “To many, it feels like the consolidation of a constitutional coup,” Kim Lane Scheppele, Professor of Public Affairs at Princeton University, wrote in The New York Times.

The most-talked-about change in the new constitution is the country’s name change: from Republic of Hungary to Hungary. Protesters told the Times it was indicative of the country’s loss of democracy.

The new constitution appended several sections which human rights group Amnesty International says violate international human rights, including ones that define life as beginning at conception and marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

Other sections that worried the rights organization include one that allows for the possibility of life imprisonment without parole, and another that fails to forbid discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation.

Concerns about Hungary’s new constitution have also been voiced by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who last year pushed Orban to commit to “the independence of the judiciary, a free press, and governmental transparency,” CNN reported.

Orban and other officials were forced to leave the gala through back doors to avoid the protests, which lasted for five hours, CNN reported.

Watch a report on Monday’s protests from al-Jazeera:

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