Thousands of Hungarian students rally against government

Wed Dec 12, 2012 1:51pm EST
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By Krisztina Than and Marton Dunai

BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Thousands of students rallied on Wednesday against the Hungarian government's planned sharp cuts in state-financed places at universities, blocking peak traffic on one of the main bridges in Budapest and several roads in freezing weather.

The students, staging the second spontaneous protest march through the Hungarian capital this week, are demanding that the government give up its plans to cut funding to higher education and start a public dialogue about the reforms.

Hungary's center-right government is trying to keep the budget deficit below the European Union's 3 percent ceiling amid a recession in central Europe's most indebted economy.

The protest march, which started with a meeting at Budapest's University of Technology and Economics, rapidly grew and headed to the Economy Ministry in sub-zero temperatures.

The students, shouting "Down with the tuition" and "Honk if you are with us", demanded that officials come out to meet them. They also demanded the resignation of education secretary Rozsa Hoffmann. Then they headed onto Parliament.

Police did not interfere.

"The biggest problem is the dictatorial system which is disguised as democracy, that people do not have a say in their own country's legislation," Balazs Tahi-Toth, 22, who is studying to be an engineer, told Reuters. "This was just the last drop."

Prime Minister Viktor Orban's government announced the planned cuts in higher education last week. From next year it plans to fully finance only 10,480 students, two-thirds fewer than this year. It will partly finance the tuition of 46,000 more and offer subsidized preferential-rate student loans.   Continued...