Former Hungarian PM detained at demo

Opponents of Viktor Orban's government were arrested for blocking entrances and exits from the Hungarian parliament building.

Story highlights

  • 43 people had been seized, including 15 MPs
  • Ferenc Gyurcsany had been a prime minister
  • Demonstrators gather in front of the Parliament
  • The opposition is critical of the Orban government
A former Hungarian prime minister was briefly detained Friday during a demonstration outside the Parliament building, police said.
Ferenc Gyurcsany, now a member of parliament, was protesting the government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban, whose center-right party, Fidesz, is dominant in Parliament.
Gyurcsany was among 43 people detained at the demonstration, staged by the LMP opposition party. He was among 15 lawmakers, including members of Parliament from the LMP and Gyurcsancy's former Socialist Party, who were picked up by police.
The people were taken into custody for blocking entrances and exits to the Parliament building and violating "personal freedom." Police said the 15 parliament members eventually were released but it's unclear whether the remaining people have been freed.
Opposition members were protesting votes by Parliament on several contentious bills and wanted more debate about them before the vote.
Parliament approved several new bills, including a measure keeping elections to a single round, another cutting in half the number of lawmakers, and one that redraws voting districts.
Later, the LMP held a demonstration, attended by about 1,000 people. Speakers called for a national referendum on the job of the government.
Concern in financial markets has brought the issue of Hungary's government and economy to the forefront. The nation has been stripped of its investment grade status by ratings agencies.
Critics have accused the ruling Fidesz Party of undermining democracy and making constitutional changes more suited to an authoritarian regime. Hungary is a member of the European Union and NATO.
Orban is accused of tightening his grip on power by redrawing election boundaries, installing loyal judges in the country's courts and curbing media freedom.
Matyas Eorsi, a Hungarian politician, said this process began a year and a half ago "when the current government got into power and since then they are systematically dismantling checks and balances and independent institutions. Recently, there was a bill introduced to the Hungarian Parliament to curb the independence of the central bank that was most alarming."
But one senior Hungarian official has blamed opposition parties for bringing the country to the brink of economic and political collapse.
Zoltan Kovacs, state secretary for government communications, said the government is trying to resolve a problem spawned by the previous Socialist government.
"There is a visible and very well-orchestrated effort on behalf of the opposition parties to put together this kind of democracy deficit problem in the last couple of months," Kovacs said.
"We have to deal with those major economic and social problems that the previous Socialist government have created. So we are basically finishing in about year and half ... the kind of process that should have been started 20 years ago."
In 2006, Hungarian radio played a leaked tape where Gyurcsany admitted that his Socialist Party lied to the public to win that year's general election.
Gyurcsany left the Socialist Party last year and has formed a new party, the Democratic Coalition.