HUNGARY'S progress from post--World War Two Soviet Union domination to independence in 1989 and membership of the European Union was slow and often painful. The National Rising of October and November 1956, with desperate radio calls for help to the outside world going unanswered, will have been in peoples' minds in Budapest yesterday when a mass demonstration there marched in protest against the introduction of a new Constitution many believe does away with checks and balances put in place for individual freedoms at the time of independence. The new Constitution has been developed by the right-wing Fidesz party which took power after winning the last election in 2009. It provides for protection of the intellectual and spiritual union of the nation (a provocative move presumably aimed at minorities) as well as providing guidance on social issues such as marriage. Complementary legislation establishes direct government control of the country's Central Bank (which is against EU rules) and introduces official monitoring of the media.
Until about one year ago the Hungarian prime minister, Viktor Orban, enjoyed about 80 per cent support in the country but this has now fallen to about 20 per cent. To judge by yesterday's demonstrations the basic lessons of the Arab Spring have been learnt elsewhere, even in a country which fought for its freedom from Soviet domination as long as 50 years ago.