bne IntelliNews – Thousands join Hungarian opposition protests against austerity measures

The opposition movement led by candidate for Prime Minister Peter Marki Zay staged a protest in central Budapest against the government’s tax amendment and increase in utility prices on July 16.

Thousands of people gathered near the Danube bank for the first major rally for the opposition which is reeling from its biggest election defeat since 2010.

The slogan of the Awake, Hungary rally was held on behalf of Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s victims, opposition politicians said.

“In the 100 days since the legislative elections, Fidesz has shown all its campaign promises to be lies,” Marki-Zay told the crowd, referring to the infamous speech given by Ferenc Gyurcsany.

The former socialist prime minister admitted in 2006 to lying about the state of the economy ahead of the general election. His speech at a closed-door ruling party caucus meeting in May 2006 was leaked to the press in September, leading to widespread rioting in Budapest. Gyurcsany resigned in 2009 as the crisis hit Hungary harder than his regional peers.

Some political analysts had also drawn a comparison to the events of 2006, saying Orban also lied to voters about the state of the economy, that the utility price freeze was tenable.

Last week, the government backed down from its most important policy commitment to keep utility prices set at artificially low prices, marking a remarkable turnaround. The government plans to raise HUF 500 billion this year and HUF 1 trillion in 2023 through rising utility prices.

The week started with the amendments submitted to the small business tax kata. The Fidesz majority-led government pushed through the legislation in a single day under a fast-track procedure. Stricter rules for kata will mean significantly higher charges for private contractors and small businesses.

This sparked protests in Budapest which continued throughout the week. People blocked key intersections and bridges in the capital. Protests continued on Saturday after Marki-Zay’s rally.

Thousands of people gathered spontaneously and strolled through the capital, chanting “down with Fidesz”, “Orban is lost”. Food couriers pledged to block Margaret Bridge during the morning rush hour on Monday.

Laura T. Thrasher