Budapest gripped by second night of furious anti-Orbán protests

There is a clear difference between the protests from both Wednesday night and those presently underway in the Hungarian capital this evening compared to previous demonstrations over the past eight years. On the surface, the current demonstrations of around three thousand protesters are about the Orbán regime’s oppressive new labour laws, reportedly adopted due to pressure on the Orbán government from multinational companies in Hungary. But it is clear that the youth-led demonstrations, much more strident and aggressive than most over the past eight years and poorly controlled by Hungarian police, are about the entire regime, as such.

Both on Wednesday and Thursday evening, largely spontaneous demonstrations, spearheaded mostly by a younger generation of Hungarians, successfully disrupted traffic on Budapest’s Chain Bridge, broke through the security barricade at parliament, set garbage cans and benches on fire, threatened to set the massive Christmas tree in front of parliament ablaze and withstood the tear gas used four times by the police. Some of the angriest, most radicalized elements chanted mockingly: “we are here to work overtime.”

Budapest police use tear gas against protesters in front of Parliament. Photo: December 12, 2018 / Index)

The reference, of course, is to the new overtime law, which allows employers to require employees to work 400 hours of overtime per year, rather than the previous maximum of 250 hours. Every opposition party was vociferous in opposing the bill–more so than they have ever been to date since Fidesz took power in 2010. Using a series of delay tactics, disruption and disobedience, they causes chaos in parliament during the vote, leading Speaker László Kövér threatening to seek the most serious penalty, including potentially jail time, for the “out of hand” opposition MP’s.

Thursday evening’s protests began with the occupation of the Chain Bridge, Margaret Bridge, as well as traffic disruption on the main road along the banks of the Danube. A group of around a thousand protesters also blocked off the busy Oktogon intersection. Similarly to yesterday, the most popular chant is “filthy Fidesz” (mocskos Fidesz), “Orbán get lost” (“Orbán, takarodj”)and references to Orbán using a popular Hungarian expletive. Several protest signs demand that the members of the Orbán regime, who form a “band of thieves” be jailed.

Budapest demonstrations on December 12, 2018. Photo: 444.hu

Although Momentum has been involved as an organizer of these demonstrations, the protests do not have any central leadership and controlling the crowd has been difficult. There also appear to be two separate, but closely linked demonstrations going on tonight and in close proximity to each other: one is organized by Momentum, the other by a union of university students. It is also clear that there is an enraged “hard core” element to the protest, and they are not looking for any compromise with the regime. The nature of this unruly protest is such that the direction of the protesters and the march can change rapidly. Last night protests persisted until past 2:00 a.m., when police finally regained control of Central Budapest and progressively chased and ultimately dispersed the crowd through the city. On Wednesday night, a handful of police were injured in the confrontations.

In its call to protest, Momentum announced: “Last night something was born in this country. The time to act has arrived. The time to get up from the couch and go out into the streets is here. We have to show that we have had enough, we have to show that we are not scared and that we won’t be slaves.”

On Thursday at 8:00 p.m. Budapest time, riot police were called to protect the Office of the Chief Prosecutor, Péter Polt, after many demonstrators began berating the Fidesz party hack who currently occupies the role and refuses to investigate and prosecute Fidesz corruption. Shortly thereafter smoke grenades were once again thrown, as the bulk of the protesters arrived to Kossuth Square and Parliament at half past eight. Near 9:00 p.m., journalists from HVG confirmed that Momentum leader András Fekete-Győri was among those who lit and tossed a smoked grenade into the line of riot police guarding parliament and that a thick cloud of smoke surrounded the officers. Firecrackers were also thrown at the police at parliament, as well as glass bottles. Within minutes, police once again used tear gas against the protesters–reportedly greater quantities than yesterday.

There is no question that after two nights of protests, the mood on the streets of Budapest is very different than before. These protests are led by younger Hungarians, they are clearly angrier than at any time in the last eight years and are much more willing to resort to various forms of civil disobedience, and many of them to violence as well.

As the evening progresses in Budapest, we will update this article with developments as warranted.

Updates:

  • 00:29 Budapest time: A few hundred protesters are now near Oktogon, blocking traffic and a bus. The riot police have now arrived on the scene too. What will likely follow from here, now that a portion of the protesters have gone home and others scattered into several smaller groups is that the police will spend the next hour or so pushing them further and further from major intersections and public squares in Central Budapest, until they ultimately scatter for the night. It will be a game of cat and mouse for an hour or so–a long standing tradition in Budapest as protests wrap up. A new demonstration is promised for Friday and another one for Sunday.
  • 00:10 Budapest time: A physical altercation has broken out between a police officer and several of the protesters that damaged police cars. Again, for the sixth time this evening, tear gas has been used. A protester is reportedly on the ground with a head injury.
  • 00:05 Budapest time: Chaos has broken out near Kossuth Square as a group of protesters surprised police by hurling garbage cans at police cars in the area. That was an unexpected development, it seems. Another group has, in an organized fashion, started marching down Alkotmány utca.
  • 23:45 Budapest time: Police have confirmed that two officers have been injured by protesters; one of the officers suffered a head injury. Meanwhile, merely 15 minutes before midnight, the stand-off at the steps of parliament continues. Quite a few Jobbik flags are seen near the front-line, with some protesters taunting the riot police.
  • 23:30 Budapest time: Riot police have used loudspeakers to warn that hurling projectiles at officers is a crime and those doing this will be prosecuted. Approximately two hundreds hardliners remain near the steps of parliament and continue to throw beer bottles, eggs and other items at the police. There are perhaps another thousand protesters in Kossuth Square.
  • 23:15 Budapest time: Riot police in Kossuth Square have used tear gas again moments ago against protesters–according to observers, the largest quantity yet this evening. It has not deterred the hardcore of demonstrators standing directly in front of the riot police. Several of them have spat on the police officers and many are chanting: “keep spraying it, keep spraying it!”
  • 23:00 Budapest time: The stand-off between riot police and protesters continues right in front of the steps of the Hungarian parliament. The more radical protesters continue to hurl glass bottles at the police. HVG also learned that Jobbik seems to be a force behind these protests, alongside Momentum. According to reports, Jobbik plans to mobilize thousands of party supporters from rural Hungary to travel to Budapest and continue the demonstrations. Jobbik chairman Tamás Sneider added that he does not support the aggression demonstrated by some protesters against the police.
  • 22:26 Budapest time: Momentum politician Anna Donat has been arrested by police in Kossuth Square. Meanwhile, a second window of parliament has been shattered by protesters.
  • 22:20 Budapest time: A protester has broken one of Parliament’s windows, as they continue to pelt riot police with various projectiles, including bottles, eggs, toilet paper rolls, rocks and firecrackers. Riot police have now used tear gas for the third time, and somewhat surprisingly, some protesters appear to have tear gas of their own. The police seem unable to control the situation in front of parliament and in Kossuth Square.

40 Comments

  1. 1) It seems to me that it is not the ones affected by the law who are protesting, but rather mostly university students, most of which are not very well acquainted with work. They took this law as a pretext for doing what they are doing.

    2) There was an election this year. Fidesz won. It is wholly unjustified to try to force a change of those results through vandalism. Evidently author does not think so.

    3) Seemingly, they are trying to emulate the French protests. There are two main differences here:

    First of all, Macron enjoys the support of about 1/4 of the French electorate according to most polls. Orban enjoys well ofver 50% according to most polls conducted in past few months.

    Second, the French protests are about a stagnation or worsening in living standards for the bottom 60% in the past decade. In Hungary the number of people at risk of poverty or social exclusion declined from a high of 35% in 2012, to under 20% currently.

    https://bbj.hu/economy/one-in-five-hungarians-still-at-risk-of-poverty-social-exclusion_158853

    This is why I believe you will mostly be disappointed with where this will go. We are looking at mostly university campus extremism flowing into the streets, with very little public support behind them, whereas the French protests enjoy overwhelming support from the general public.

    Keep dreaming!

    • 81% of Hungarians do not support the Slave Law.
      https://www.policyagenda.hu/elemzesek/2018/negyotod-ellenzi-a-rabszolga-torvenyt/#.XBLsBi2ZNTb

      Even 2/3 of Fidesz supporters do not support the law.
      https://hvg.hu/itthon/20181212_Meg_a_fideszesek_ketharmada_is_eliteli_a_rabszolgatorvenyt

      According to polls Fidesz hasn’t reached 50% since 2010.

      https://kozvelemenykutatok.hu/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/Fidesz-telj.png

      OV’s support has declined by 5% since Oct. from 52% to 47% currently according to HVG.

      The most recent poll I could find for Fidesz support was for Mid Nov. Still below 50%. Correct me if I am wrong. And even if I am, it is crystal clear that Hungarians do not support this law.

      It is also clear that Hungarians are much more concerned about issues that Fidesz is not dealing with – healthcare (62%) and corruption (28%). Fidesz’s biggest issue, migration, hardly makes a mark (15%).

      https://hvg.hu/itthon/20181120_Kiderult_mit_tartunk_a_legnagyobb_problemanak__es_annak_koze_sincs_a_migraciohoz

      As usual take everything Joe says with a heavey dose of skepticism. He tends to make things up. The discontent seems to run a lot deeper than our sycophant seems to suggest.

    • “1) It seems to me that it is not the ones affected by the law who are protesting, but rather mostly university students, most of which are not very well acquainted with work. They took this law as a pretext for doing what they are doing.”

      Yet, the Labor Unions are involved, Jobbik was out in force, and the opposition has united around this issue as witnessed by actions in parliament this week.

      This can’t be spun as just a bunch of lazy students who have never worked. Please, note that Joe’s statement is taken directly from Fidesz statements.

    • Turns out out Hungarian’s
      living standards are nearly the worst in the EU. https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/documents/2995521/9447627/2-13122018-AP-EN.pdf/5975f52d-b92b-448d-8c5c-0532a4d50430

    • „It seems to me …“ … than it has to be at the end „Keep dreaming!“.

      Do you know how it is with the trash can, everything comes into it what “seems to be”. But then you can just assume that the demonstrators had nothing to do with the demonstration at all. But you have to excuse others for keeping you a bit underprivileged. Is your trash can full?

    • The results of the Orban “policies” are pretty bad, even as record EU money in poring in and the world/Euro economies were doing well. What will happen now as these are to decline?

      Actual individual consumption, Purchase
      Parity Power , as of 2018.12.13):

      EU average = 100% in 2017 [in 2014]

      Poorest: Bulgaria (51%) 54% up
      2nd poorest: Hungary (63%) 62% down

      Croatia: (59%) 62% up
      Romania (56%) 68% up !!
      Latvia: (65%) 68% up
      Estonia: (71%) 73% up
      Slovakia 76% [76%] unchanged
      Poland: (74%) 76% up
      Slovenia: (76%) 77% up
      Czechia: (78%) 82% up
      Lithuania: (81%) 88% up

      https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/documents/2995521/9447627/2-13122018-AP-EN.pdf

      • “The results of the Orban “policies” are pretty bad,”

        No! The results you are citing are mostly a reflection of the damage done by the economic crisis caused by the 2002-2010 leadership and its after effects.

      • Joe Fidesznik
        What crisis? All we hear is how great things are in Orbanistan and improving.
        No, they are not?
        It can’t be the Soviets, or the Turks any more, they are “our friends and allies”now.
        But of course! It’s Soros, we are going downward because he’s also giving us money, although not so much as the damned EU.

        How dump your comments can get?

        • What crisis? How about the one that started in 2007, with Hungary’s growth reaching 0%, while deficit was still 7%? Slovakia and Romania were growing at 8%. The crisis that left Hungary drowning in unsustainable FX debt, impoverished, on IMF diet. That crisis!

          Things not improving?

          People at risk of poverty declined from 35% in 2012 (Socialist legacy), to under 20% by 2017. Number of people employed increased from 3.6 million to 4.5 million. All this while government & consumer debt as a % of GDP declined significantly. In other words Hungary’s sustainability is also improving.

          BTW: The data you provided is not meant to highlight living standards. For instance, interest paid is included in that spending stat. In the case of Hungarians, consumer debt is down significantly as % of GDP since 2010, and it is no longer FX dominated, and with much lower interest rates, thus people spending far less of their incomes on interest on debt compared with 2010.

          The purpose of such data is actually to highlight sustainability. For instance Hungary’s GDP was 68% of EU average, consumption 62%. Romania is opposite. Lower interest on debt is part of reason, as I pointed out. debt deleveraging is another. Romania also has 4 million citizens working abroad, sending money back, which is in part why they spend far higher proportion that their GDP. All these facts tell us is that Hungary is in a much more stable financial and economic trajectory, while Romania is in an unsustainable trend, which at some point will end with a nasty correction.

          It is not enough to source data, you also have to understand what it means!

        • Joe
          Pls clear these contradictions with the party about-prop dept: crisis or not, decline or not.
          Your “explainations” of the poor figures are not very convincing either.
          Finally you are lying about “employed …from 3.5 to 4.6 million” (link?) or the “significant decline” of government debt (excluding the appropriation and termination of the pensions funds ie. comparing apples with oranges).

          • Finally you are lying about “employed …from 3.5 to 4.6 million” (link?)

            https://tradingeconomics.com/hungary/employed-persons

            or the “significant decline” of government debt

            https://tradingeconomics.com/hungary/government-debt-to-gdp

            We can safely exclude the pension issue, because that happened more than half a decade ago, some of it going to debt reduction, that same year, some of it went into a government stake into MOL and so on, so it has nothing to do with the deficits of the past five years.

            Finally, I have no illusions about basic facts and concepts that you most likely do not understand, convincing you of anything. Especially given that you referenced data that you do not understand the meaning of, in order to argue something entirely different.

  2. @Joe : There was also an election in France recently and Macron won.
    According to your point #2 “this is wholly unjustified to try to force change through vandalism”.

    I just highlight you use arguments that you consider applicable or not depending on who is concerned instead of the logic of the argument.

    • Yes, according to my logic, at most such demonstrations should lead to early elections. At most! Change needs to happen at the ballot box, where everyone gets a chance to have their say, not on the street, based on who can whip up more hooliganism.

      Most definitely not the fiasco that happened in Ukraine.

    • Joe
      Remember the hooliganism whipped up (organized) and prodded by Fid in 2006?
      The paving stones, iron bars and stones used against the unprotected policemen, leaving hundreds of them injured?
      And consequent acquittal by an ad hoc law and indemnification of the hooligans involved?
      And now your dirty Fidesz has the gall to lie blatantly even in the face of those who were there.

      • Yes, that was wrong as well. Like I said, it is no way to bring down a government as long as elections are an option. The most such demonstrations should achieve is early elections, at which point everyone gets the opportunity to express their verdict.

      • We just had “elections”, what’s the purpose of another round of this farce, you can see so many in Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan and other “brotherly” Turkic nations Hungary is following.
        Hajra.

  3. It is obvious that the ones behind Orban’s slave-law are not multinationals but Orban. (Why on earth would BMW want the right to require overtime with payment deferred 3 years? They can afford to make it voluntary and to pay for it immediately.)

    Blaming it on the “multinationals” is just the usual Orbanian disinformation and scapegoating to camouflage his own criminal misgovernance; he might just as well have blamed it as usual on George Soros and the left-lib pro-immigrant conspiracy.

    • They could afford a lot of things, but they want more production at less expenses

    • Teo
      There isn’t any shred of evidence re the multi nationals. Note also that employees have rated the best workplaces in Hu with multinationals for years.
      Finally we can safely assume that Orban is lying as always, so the truth must be the opposite.

      • “… so the truth must be the opposite.”

        “Nobody has the intention to build a wall!” This sentence says DDR leader and party leader Walter Ulbricht on June 15, 1961 in a press conference. Two months later, the Berlin Wall is built – and Ulbricht is one of history’s biggest liars.

        But Joe is better, he believes in it. I do not know why Joe is so attached to totalitarian-fidesz gossip while he hates totalitarianism-sozialist. And when I say I do not know, then I mean I know.

  4. Pingback: Budapest gripped by second night of furious anti-Orbán protests - Hungarian Free Press | Budapest Informer

  5. StrandedinSopron says:

    “The reference, of course, is to the new overtime law, which allows employers to require employees to work 400 hours of overtime per year, rather than the previous maximum of 250 hours. ”

    New rules mean companies can demand up to 400 hours of overtime a year AND *delay payment for it for three years*.

    That last part is important and is why this new regime diktat is being referred to as the “Slavery Law”.

    The effect will be not as Orban and the multinationals desire-i.e a large, captive, passive and low-paid workforce.

    The flood of Hungarian economic migrants (especially skilled labour) west will increase.

  6. But we do NOT hear from the workers who are supposedly affected by the over time work.

    Is not there any labour law and ministry of labour ?
    Nor the unions contract would not cover the issue of over-time.
    Are they not welcome the opportunity to work and earn more ?
    And what about their representatives, in case they are unionized. OR is Hungary a “free to work law country”???

    But what will happen when Hungary also start instituting the “carbon tax” like Macron attempted in France.
    When gas prices will close to double in Hungary.
    I do not think any country in Europe would have rejected the Paris Accord, like Trump.

    As I can assume most student also do not own cars and drive, just as they do not work, unless study can be considered “over time”.

  7. Sopron states that this is referred as the “slave law”.

    Why is not referred to arbitration ?

    What a bunch if jerks, can not even handle a simple labour issue.
    They are lucky they are not an industrialized nation.

  8. Gov controlled media here in Budapest is quiet about the details of the demonstrations, or downplay them as “disturbances”…. The situation must be serious since Interior Minister Pinter announced that the demonstrators “attack democracy”… Reminds me the good ol’ Communist “news blockades”… it seems that the population outside Budapest has no idea what is happening at night in the City… and it is freezing here…

  9. Also, let’s not forget about the fact that in the past couple of years hundreds of thousands were protesting against Orban’s regime, the protests were incredibly non-violent and peaceful. Still nothing had happened, it is just natural for people to change and try another tactic.
    On the other hand the “slavery law” was just another trigger – on the same they the government’s MP’s pushed through another law which will change the whole judicial system: from now on ministries will appoint the judges in cases of what they call public affair. So practically Fidesz protects itself and has an extremely powerful tool in its hand when punishing those who are fighting against its rule.

  10. Undeniably this demonstration is NOT an issue driven event.
    The workers, who could be considered the interested party of the named subject of the ruling, are no place on the streets.

    But breaking windows, turning over garbage cans , knocking down light posts and burning cars by the students, is perhaps good for the country’s economy ?

    So that some people will have to work over-time to pay the cost of the damages.

  11. SHADE wrote;

    “.. from now on ministers will appoint the judges…”

    Just when did the people of Hungary ever had the chance to elect the judges and all other officials????

  12. Is required overtime really increased to 400 hours? I read elsewhere that it was compromised to increase to only 250 mandatory and 400 voluntary?

  13. Oh dear.

    Interesting to see how Putin funded far-right joins forces with Soros funded far-left to stop helping entrepreneurs. Not a surprise as both are really just a different flavors of socialism.

    Personally i don’t see why there is any need for regulation of overtime hours at all, it should be an agreement between the parties involved. But higher limit is obviously better than lower limit.

    Anyhow there are already a lot people both in Hungary and other EU countries without any overtime regulation at all .

    Also i seriously doubt that only very few (if any) of the people in protests would be affected. Students are not even working nor left wing politicians. Labour unions – as nowhere – hardly have the interest of workers in mind.

    Nevertheless what i don’t understand is why the payment is allowed to be delayed more than the previous 1 year.

    I can somehow understand why in the past due to lack of capital (cash) as well as high interest rates (i think it was ca 11% in 2008 for awhile) the only source for funding for some companies was its employes.

    Well, the lack of cash is still there (though not as acute than 10 years ago) but there has never been this low interest rates.

    I doubt that many of the people calling this “slavery” has been running any companies in Hungary (or other Visegrad countries). There are very few countries in Europe where the employees have such a high negotiation position than here -only ones i know of are Czechia and Poland – although at least in some industries the massive immigration to Poland has made the situation bit more balanced there.

  14. TEO;

    When this new “law” mandate to pay 50% extra for overtime after the daily 8 hours and 100% for wok conducted on “rest days”, just how the hell can any employer get “more production” out of any workers “at less expense”???

    Would you be so kind to show me that ???

    • If overtime does not have to be paid out in three years, it will give a nice investment or a cheap loan and in three years the money will be less valuable … which sum we are talking about, 500 million euros per year, 1.5 billion euros in three? Have you ever invested 1.5 billion euros?

  15. Váci Klebelsberg Kultúrkör says:

    It is obvious that the ‘protesters’ – and the figures who are paying /backing them – want to create a “Maidan situation” . Ridiculous program points, mentally weak protesters. Aristo has written a very precise articles about the ‘yellow vest protesters’ and about the ‘democratic protesters’ !

    https://aristo.pestisracok.hu/kijozanodas/

    https://aristo.pestisracok.hu/sarga-melleny/

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