Hungary protests spark opposition coalition – but will it last?

BUDAPEST ( ) – Week-long protests in Budapest have forged fragmented opposition parties into a rare coalition against Viktor Orban, drawing young Hungarians into the streets to demonstrate against what they see as his increasingly authoritarian rule.

Passage of two laws last week backed by the prime minister’s Fidesz party angered a variety of domestic voter groups, galvanizing the weak and divided opposition to act with a unity rarely seen in his eight years in power.

The protests in Budapest raised the question of whether such fledgling cooperation can last long enough to put down roots and offer viable op爱上海419position to a charismatic politician normally adept at side-lining dissent.

While no substantial shift in Hungary’s domestic balance of power appears on the cards for now, there is a sense among some Hungarians that Orban overplayed his hand by pushing through the two laws that drew such a concerted opposition response.

One law, dubbed the “slave law”, allows employers to ask staff to work up to 400 hours per year of overtime.

Another would set up new courts controlled by the justice minister, which critics say could lead to political meddling.

Denes Hubicsak, an engineer, 24, joined almost all the protests since Dec. 12 and came to the state television building on Monday night, ignoring freezing cold, to demand independent public media and courts.

“I’m here because I want to live here in 10 years’ time as well,” he said. “Many people here are protesting because of the slave law now, but they sometimes forget the ot,爱上海419Eden,her one: the law about administrative courts.”

Hubicsak said he did not have high hopes of the EU reining in what critics see as the increasingly authoritarian policies of Orban, as this has not happened in the past eight years.

“I cannot see the pressure from the EU or from the European People,上海419论坛Macauly,’s party that could influence them a little, or make Orban or Fidesz just think twice,” he said.

The demonstrations, which peaked at around 10,000 on Sunday, pose no immediate threat to Orban as Fidesz enjoys strong voter support, ever since his third straight election win in April.

But if the protests p,爱上海同城论坛网Earl,ersist and leftist parties and the nationalist Jobbik party can turn the latest cooperation into a lasting campaign, such concerted activism might erode Fidesz’ widely expected win at European Parliament and municipal elections next year, some analysts said.

There were many students among the protesters on Sunday, and some also joined on Monday night. This is the so-called Generation Y — Hungarians in their 20s and 30s — for whom Orban and his policies are not an appealing choice.

They are very unhappy about the government’s education policies which they say fail to prepare them for life in the 21st century by too rigidly focusing on rote-learning.

“What they do in higher education is really bad,” said Dora, 16, who did not want to give her full name. “I am worried I won’t have a good college to go to in Hungary and I don’t want to go abroad …I also oppose the labor law.”

RARE UNITY

Orban has clashed with Brussels over his policies to curb the media and courts, has tweaked the election system to favor Fidesz and put loyalists at the head of several institutions.

Orban has projected himself as defending Hungary’s Christian culture against Muslim migration into Europe, an image which resonates with millions of voters, especially in rural areas.

Fidesz had 38 percent support in a November poll by pro-government think-tank Nezopont, while all the opposition parties had about 25 percent combined.

Csaba Toth, director of liberal think tank Republikon, said the opposition was now working in rare unity and could build on this next year when Hungary holds European and municipal polls.

“But if they are not able to come up with something forward-looking in the next few days before Christmas, the whole (protest sentiment) could collapse,” he said.

A government spokesman dismissed the protests as a desperate attempt by a weak opposition and foreign-paid activists.

“Citizens have the right to protest as long as they don’t break the law. But beware when a small minority of foreign-trained activists, representatives of losing political parties and, yes, Soros network putschists emerge hell-bent on toppling a popular, democratically elected government,” Zoltan Kovacs wrote in a blog on Monday.

A spokesperson for George Soros’ Open Society Foundations said on Monday that Soros had not stoked the protests.

Senate panel approves resolution on Syria military strikes

WASHINGTON ( ) – The Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved a resolution on Wednesday authorizing limited U.S. military intervention in Syria, setting the stage for a contentious debate in the full Senate next week on the use of force.

The committee voted 10-7 in favor of a compromise resolution that sets a 60-day limit on any engagement in Syria, with a possible 30-day extension, and bars the use of U.S. troops on the ground for combat operations.

The compromise is more limited than President Barack Obama’s original proposal but would meet his administration’s goal of punishing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government for what the United States says was the use of chemical weapons on Syrian civilians, killing more than 1,400 people.

The relatively close committee vote reflected the broad divisions on the authorization in Congress, where many lawmakers fear it could lead to a prolonged U.S. military involvement in Syria’s civil war and spark an escalation of regional violence.

Five Republicans and two of Obama’s fellow Democrats – Chris Murphy and Tom Udall – voted against the resolution. Democrat Ed Markey voted “present,” saying in a statement that he is still undecided.

The full Democratic-controlled Senate is expected to vote on the resolution next week. The Republican-controlled House of Representatives also must approve it. Both votes are expected to be close, as scores of lawmakers in both parties have yet to stake out a public position other than to say they are looking for more answers.

Obama and administration officials have urged Congress to act quickly, saying U.S. national security and international credibility is at stake in the decision on whether to use force in Syria in response to the use of chemical weapons.

“If we don’t take a stand here today, I guarantee you, we are more likely to face far greater risks to our security and a far greater likelihood of conflict that demands our action in the future,” Secretary of State John Kerry told the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday.

“Assad will read our silence, our unwillingness to act, as a signal that he can use his weapons with impunity,” Kerry said.

Protesters held hands splattered with blood-red paint in the air behind Kerry as he spoke at a House hearing that underscored the skepticism among lawmakers in both parties about the authorization.

House members peppered Kerry, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the U.S. military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, with questions about the duration, targets, potential response and level of international support for military action in Syria.

“Whether we ultimately support a resolution on the use of force or not, it will depend on how these concerns are addressed in the coming days by the administration,” Republican Steve Chabot told the officials.

‘LIMITS OF AMERICAN POWER’

In the Senate committee, Murphy said he rejected the resolution because he was concerned a strike could make the situation worse in Syria and he feared the possibility of a prolonged U.S. commitment.

“I oppose it not because I don’t gag every time that I look at those photos of young children who have been killed by Assad in his lethal attacks. It’s simply because I have deep concerns about the limits of American power,” Murphy said.

Senate leaders are unsure if Obama can win the 60 votes needed to overcome possible Republican procedural roadblocks. In the 435-member House, a senior Republican aide predicted most of the 50 or so Republicans backed by the conservative Tea Party movement and a number of Democratic liberals will join forces to vote no, leaving the outcome in doubt.

More closed-door briefings are planned for lawmakers in the House and Senate on Thursday as the administration continues to build the case for the use of military force.

The Senate committee vote came after the panel’s leaders – Democratic Chairman Robert Menendez and senior Republican Bob Corker – crafted a compromise to meet concerns that Obama’s proposed resolution was too open-ended.

Republican John McCain, a proponent of strong action in Syria, objected to the more narrow compromise. The committee adopted his amendments spelling out the policy goals of degrading Assad’s ability to use chemical weapons and increasing the military capability of rebel forces.

“These amendments are vital to ensuring that any U.S. military operations in Syria are part of a broader strategy to change the momentum on the battlefield in Syria,” McCain said.

The committee rejected Udall’s amendment to prohibit air and naval forces from entering Syrian waters or air space, and an amendment by Republican Rand Paul of Kentucky that would have reaffirmed Congress’s role in declaring war.

Polls sho,上海贵族宝贝论坛Tate,w strong public opposition to U.S. military involvement in Syria, and the debate in the U.S. Con,上海龙凤419Rafaella,gress is unfolding one week after Britain’s Parliament ,上海千花网Hank,rejected British involvement in any military operation.

In Sweden, Obama issued a blunt challenge to U.S. lawmakers to authorize a military strike on Syria.

“My credibility is not on the line. The international community’s credibility is on the line,” Obama told a news conference in Stockholm. “And America and Congress’s credibility is on the line, because (otherwise) we give lip service to the notion that these international norms are important.

Kerry told House lawmakers that at least 10 countries have pledged to participate in a military intervention in Syria, but did not identify them or specify what roles they would play.

Many members of Congress have said they are worried the resolution could lead to the deployment of U.S. ground troops, or “boots on the ground,” in Syria – which administration officials said would not happen.

“It’s very clear on the House side there is no support for boots on the ground,” House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce told Kerry at the hearing.

Kerry answered flatly, “There will be no boots on the g上海419论坛round. The president has said it again and again.”

Kerry had a sharp exchange with Republican congressman Jeff Duncan, who said the administration has a credibility problem after the 2012 deaths of U.S. diplomats in Benghazi, Libya.

“Mr. Kerry, you have never been one that has advocated for anything other than caution when involving U.S. forces in past conflicts,” Duncan said. “The same is true for the president and the vice president. Is th,上海419论坛James,e power of the executive branch so intoxicating that you would abandon past caution in favor (of) pulling the trigger on a military response so quickly?”

Kerry, a Vietnam War veteran, responded that “I volunteered to fight for my country, and that wasn’t a cautious thing to do when I did it.”

“We don’t deserve to drag this into yet another Benghazi discussion when the real issue here is whether or not the Congress is going to stand up for international norms with respect to dictators,” Kerry added.