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Thousands rally against gov’t pension, constitution plans

Thousands of firemen, police officers and soldiers protested in Budapest on Saturday against government plans to scrap the early retirement system for law-and-order officials. About 15,000 people gathered in central Budapest and marched to Parliament. Protesters demanded the government maintain the option for those employees to retire at an earlier age.

Demonstrators threw smoke grenades and opened fire hydrants as they marched through downtown Budapest. The rallies will continue until the government revokes the planned measures, organizers said. In a separate protest, civilians called on the government to move away from plans to approve a new constitution, which they claim curbs democratic rights.

Several thousand civilians rallied against the constitution at a demonstration organized by the Democratic Charter, a platform founded by former Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány. Opposition parties and civil groups held demonstrations yesterday throughout the city to protest against the new constitution.

The ruling coalition of Fidesz and the Christian Democrats is scheduled to pass a new constitution today without the participation of the parliamentary opposition, which claims that the new law eliminates democratic checks and balances, and concentrates power in the hands of the government.