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IMF Urges Growth Agenda in Hungary, Belgrade Slammed Over Gay Parade Ban

Plus, Kazakhstan is the latest to ban Innocence of Muslims, and four are killed in a Dagestan firefight.

by S. Adam Cardais and Ioana Caloianu 5 October 2012

1. For Hungary, IMF says, more austerity is not the answer


Hungary should focus on “more balanced” policies to get the country out of its second recession in four years, the International Monetary Fund says, not more belt-tightening in addition to Budapest's planned budgets cuts for 2013, Bloomberg reports.


“We are not looking for more fiscal adjustment beyond what the government is already planning, there is no more austerity in our proposals,” the IMF representative in Budapest told Bloomberg. “[W]e are looking for policies that can boost growth.”


The IMF's remarks to Bloomberg are an evident rejoinder to Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who on 1 October rejected an IMF aid package that he said includes pension cuts and other austerity measures. He said the bank made these demands during negotiations for the emergency loan last month, when the talks fell apart, despite several contradictory media reports.


Viktor Orban
Some commentators slammed Orban as mendacious, hubristic, delusional, or some mix of all three, but with little evident impact in Budapest. In a 4 October interview with a Hungarian weekly, the government's chief IMF negotiator said Hungary can finance its budget through mid-2013 without IMF help, or “with luck” even longer, Bloomberg reports.


Hungary approached the IMF for help when the heavily indebted country's credit rating was downgraded to junk in November, Bloomberg notes. But talks for a nearly $20 billion loan have repeatedly foundered on resistance from Orban, whom many international observers have begun to see as a creeping autocrat for his attempts to muzzle independent media and other regressive policies.


The IMF has not set a timetable for resuming the loan talks.


2. Belgrade faulted for banning second straight gay pride parade


International leaders and rights groups are slamming Belgrade for banning all public demonstrations on 6 October, when Serbia's gay community had planned to hold a pride parade, Radio Free Europe reports.


Ivica Dacic
Citing “security assessments,” on 3 October Serbian Prime Minister Ivica Dacic banned public gatherings on the sixth. The 2011 gay pride parade was prohibited for similar reasons, after opponents attacked the parade in 2010.


David Lidington, Britain's minister for Europe, said Serbian leaders aren't protecting the civil liberties of all citizens, RFE reports. The head of the Council of Europe, a human rights body, said he was “surprised and disappointed that the Belgrade Pride event has been banned again,” Balkan Insight reports. The U.S. Embassy in Belgrade expressed “profound disappointment,” saying Serbian leaders had “giv[en] in to threats of violence,” according to Balkan Insight.


Amnesty International called the government's decision a “victory for prejudice and a sorry defeat for human rights and common decency” that violates the country's own “law and constitution.”


Parade organizer Goran Miletic said activists will hold an indoor gathering over the weekend and try again for a parade next year, RFE reports


3. Kazakh court rules controversial anti-Muslim film is extremist


On 4 October, a Kazakh court ruled that the Innocence of Muslims, a short film on YouTube that has sparked outrage in the Arab world for portraying Muhammad negatively, is extremist and banned its distribution, RIA Novosti reports.


A Moscow court made a similar ruling on 1 October. Three days earlier, a court in Grozny, capital of the majority Muslim Republic of Chechnya, ordered restrictions on the film's distribution, RIA Novosti reports.


The moves follow protests a week earlier in the North Caucasus and Ukraine over a film that has sparked demonstrations and even violence in many Muslim communities. On 27 September, some 700 Muslims gathered in the Crimean capital of Simferopol to protest in a peaceful demonstration.


4. Russian police kill suspected militants in North Caucasus shootout


Four suspected militants have been killed in Dagestan, one of the most volatile republics in the restive North Caucasus, Russian police say, according to Radio Free Europe.


The suspects were killed in a shoot-out after reportedly opening fire on police and security officers when their car was stopped on the highway. No police were injured.


Munitions were found in the car, RFE reports.


Dagestan has become increasingly unstable amid an Islamic insurgency that frequently attacks officials, among other public figures, RFE notes. 


5. Russia puts on the dog for Putin’s birthday


Russia has been abuzz with preparations for President Vladimir Putin's 60th birthday on 7 October, the Guardian reports. Previous birthdays, which brought gifts of tiger cubs and videos and calendars of young girls, as well as celebrations alongside his friends and former statesmen Silvio Berlusconi and Gerhard Schroeder, seemed to have raised the standards. The youth wing of the ruling United Russia party has organized the “We are Russia, Russia is Putin” campaign, which will feature poetry readings on the Arbat street in the heart of Moscow, a huge birthday card where residents of the Siberian city of Chelyabinsk can write their wishes for the Russian president, and a collection of 100 drawings by schoolchildren in honor of Putin. State-owned television channels will also air documentaries and interviews focusing on the president on 7 October.


Critics of the Putin presidency also plan to hold a flash mob on 7 October near the presidential administration office. Its theme will be “Send Granddad into Retirement,” based on the fact that 60 is the retirement age for men in Russia. Organizers intend to bring props like slippers, eyeglass cases, and gardening equipment.


For his part, Putin prefers a different approach, according to his spokesman. Dmitry Peskov said that although the president “appreciates warm feelings toward him” he would like “these feelings to be expressed in a different way – in the form of support of his ideas, support of his activities, support of his efforts." Peskov also said the president will organize "a very modest home celebration with his best friends and relatives. He's not fond of big celebrations," according to the Guardian.

S. Adam Cardais is a TOL contributing editor.Ioana Caloianu is a TOL editorial assistant.
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