Hungarian students rally against state financing cuts

BUDAPEST Mon Dec 17, 2012 4:31pm EST

Thousands of students protest against government plans to cut state-financed places at universities in Budapest, December 17, 2012. This is the third mass student rally in the past week, the government will be discussing the education reform plan on Wednesday. REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo

Thousands of students protest against government plans to cut state-financed places at universities in Budapest, December 17, 2012. This is the third mass student rally in the past week, the government will be discussing the education reform plan on Wednesday.

Credit: Reuters/Bernadett Szabo

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BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Thousands of Hungarian students rallied on Monday, piling pressure on the government to give up plans for cuts in state financing to higher education.

The protesters marched through central Budapest to the public radio station which broadcast a summary of demands from the students who sang the national anthem in the rain outside.

This was the third big rally against education reform plans since the government decided on sharp cuts in higher education earlier this month.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who started his political carrier as a student leader in the 1980s, promised on Saturday to ensure free education for those who meet certain requirements. However, he gave no details of the plans, which the government will discuss on Wednesday.

The protests could be politically damaging to the conservative government which won a two-thirds parliamentary majority in 2010 but has lost most of its lead over its Socialist rivals and has little hope to cut high unemployment before elections in 2014.

"The education issue could be damaging to the government if it becomes a topic at family tables during Christmas," said political analyst Zoltan Kiszelly.

"The government is likely to backtrack now and we will see later whether they manage to reduce the damage," he added.

(Reporting by Sandor Peto; Editing by Stephen Powell)

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