Hungarian police removed former Socialist Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany and several other lawmakers from a protest outside parliament on Friday as the government prepared to pass laws the opposition sees as a blow to democracy.
A Reuters photographer saw Gyurcsany, who headed two previous Socialist governments and is an MP now, being taken to a police car, while a spokesman from the green liberal opposition LMP party confirmed that 11 LMP members of parliament had been detained after they waived their immunity.
The centre-right Fidesz party government plans to pass an electoral law on Friday, as well as one on economic stability that is opposed by the European Union, prompting the LMP MPs to chain themselves to a barrier outside parliament in protest.
Later police forcefully removed the lawmakers from the scene and also took away Gyurcsany who had joined the protest.
I have come here as it's a shame for the governing majority that people have to defend parliamentary democracy with their own bodies, Gabor Scheiring, one of the protesting MPs told Reuters.
They want to cement the flat tax, under which the majority of people end up worse off ... and the ruling majority of Fidesz wants to approve an electoral law today, with which they will take away the people's right to replace this government.
LMP party spokesman Balint Linder said the party's MPs have been detained and taken to a police centre.
LMP has 15 deputies in the 386-member parliament.
EU OPPOSES TWO LAWS
Fidesz, which has a two-thirds majority in parliament, will pass a bill which critics say will change the electoral system in its favour. It will also pass one on financial stability which cements some of its economic policies and which the European Union has told the government to withdraw.
Late on Thursday Prime Minister Viktor Orban rejected a European Commission request to withdraw two disputed laws, in a move which could derail Hungary's talks about a new deal with international lenders and which analysts have said could trigger a full-blown market crisis.
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso has written to Orban, asking him to scrap two laws - the financial stability law and one on the central bank which the European Central Bank says infringes on the central bank's independence.
Parliament is due to pass the stability law and the electoral law in a final vote on Friday, while a final vote on the central bank legislation is expected next week.
The dispute over the laws led to a premature end to informal talks with the EU and International Monetary Fund over a new financing backstop last week and helped trigger a downgrade in Hungary's debt rating by Standard and Poor's to junk on Wednesday.
Since it swept to power in April 2010, Orban's government has tightened its grip over the media, curbed the rights of the Hungary's top Constitutional Court, renationalised private pension assets and dismantled the independent budget oversight body, the Fiscal Council.
The new central bank bill is the latest in a series of conflicts with Brussels. The United States has urged Orban's administration to respect democratic freedoms.
(Reporting by Krisztina Than; Editing by Alistair Lyon)