Thousands join Hungarian opposition protests against austerity measures

Thousands join Hungarian opposition protests against austerity measures
A protester holds a placard likening Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban to North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.
By bne IntelliNews July 18, 2022

The opposition movement led by joint prime minister candidate Peter Marki Zay organised a protest in central Budapest against the government’s tax amendment and utility price increases on July 16.

Thousands gathered near the Danube bank for the first larger gathering of the opposition that is reeling from its largest election loss since 2010.

The rally’s slogan Wake up, Hungary was held on behalf of victims of Prime Minister Viktor Orban, opposition politicans said.

"In the 100 days since the general election, Fidesz had shown that all of its campaign promises were lies", Marki-Zay told the crowd, referring to the infamous speech given by Ferenc Gyurcsany.

The former Socialist prime minister in 2006 admitted to lying about the state of the economy in the run-up to a general election. His speech at a closed caucus meeting of the ruling party in May 2006 was leaked to the press in September, leading to wide spread riots in Budapest. Gyurcsany resigned in 2009 as the crisis hit Hungary harder than its regional peers.

Some political analysts had also drawn comparison to events in 2006, saying Orban had also lied to voters about the state of the economy, that utilty price freezes are tenable.

Last week saw the government retreating from its most important political pledge, that is to keep utility prices fixed at an artificially low prices marking a remarkable U-turn. The government expects to collect HUF500bn this year and HUF1 trillion in 2023 from higher utility prices.

The week kicked off with the amendments submitted to the small business tax kata. The Fidesz majority led government pushed the legislation through in just one day in an expedited procedure. Tighter rules for kata will mean significantly higher burdens for private entreprenours and small businesses.

This triggered protests in Budapest that continued during the week. People blocked key intersections and bridges in the capital.  Demonstrations continued on Saturday after the rally by Marki-Zay.

Thousands of people gathered spontenously and strolled in the capital, chanting "down with Fidesz", "Orban get lost". Food couriers pledged to block Margaret bridge in the morning rush hour on Monday.