Angry demonstrations against Orbán regime continue for third night

The new overtime law, roundly condemned by every opposition party, has brought disparate and often feuding factions of parliament together, alongside unaligned students, youth and others in the capital. Friday marked the third straight night of palpably angry and often aggressive demonstrations–the protest began early in the evening, in Kossuth Square, with the participation of every opposition party. But as the “official” demonstration came to an end shortly after 6:00 p.m. local time, the initial crowd of about 1,000 demonstrators began swelling, as more people streamed into the square. As the crowd grew and the official demonstration wrapped up, lines of riot police appeared in front of parliament.

On both Wednesday and Thursday, Hungarian police turned their back on the restraint that they had displayed through most of the past eight years. I can certainly say from personal experience at earlier demonstrations (admittedly much less aggressive in tone than the ones this week), that Hungarian police were almost always polite, restrained and professional. That has clearly changed. Over the past two nights of demonstrations, 51 protesters were arrested and there were reports that at the end of the Thursday protest, police officers required demonstrators to stare into a police camera and give state their full name before being allowed to leave the premises. This reportedly occurred to demonstrators near Dob utca, in Central Budapest and a journalist of HVG was required to do the same, before being permitted to leave. Civil liberties experts have noted that the police have no right to make such a request and to effectively detain people until they adhere to the recording is troubling. The move is considered unprecedented in Hungary. When journalist Noémi Zalavári showed her press pass, but was still required to state her name in the camera, she was told by police that they were following orders.

On Friday, demonstrators in Kossuth Square who refused to go home after the end of the official protest took an informal vote amongst themselves as to where they should go next. They decided to march to, and block Margaret Bridge. Several hundred began marching over to the bridge shortly after half past six. With little effort, demonstrators blocked access to the bridge, then stopped traffic on the main ring road, Szent István Körút, as they marched toward Nyugati–the location of one the main railway stations in Budapest. The chant that has become popular during the three nights of protests lived on tonight, as “filthy Fidesz” (mocskos Fidesz) filled the streets. Many referred to Prime Minister Viktor Orbán as a traitor, a thief and a dictator.

Friday evening, the demonstrators came well-prepared, after suffering two nights of tear gas from riot police. Many marched on the ring road wearing goggles or gas masks. By 7:00 p.m. the crowd, according to HVG’s estimates grew to about 3,000 demonstrators–comparable to the numbers of Thursday night. After holding up traffic near Margaret Bridge and Nyugati, the crowd marched to Deák Ferenc tér and then to Astoria, occupying most of the road and all of the sidewalks. Several demonstrators hurled smoke grenades.

Shortly after 8:00 p.m. Budapest time, the demonstrators were back in front of parliament in Kossuth Square, hurling pocket change at the police and throwing a series of smoke grenades. The demonstrators were mostly chanting “Get lost, Orbán!” and the undisputed favourite: “filthy Fidesz.” As during the past two nights of protest, this one too was dominated by a very young generation of Hungarians and again, the police employed tear gas. Many demonstrators then proceeded to throw projectiles of various types, including bottles, at the police.

Photo: 444.hu

Meanwhile today, the politicians of “filthy Fidesz” didn’t do anything to try to conciliate, in order to take the wind out of the sails of the demonstrations. Absurdly, János Latorcai (KDNP) declared that the demonstrators “do not respect baby Jesus,” nor do they respect Christianity. Mr. Latorcai came to this conclusion after he read reports that some of the demonstrators wanted to burn down the Christmas tree in front of parliament. And Interior Minister Sándor Pintér claimed that the aggression directed at the police was unprecedented in recent memory, adding that 14 police officers have sustained injuries thus far and eight police vehicles have been damaged to date. The claim that this level of aggression against police by demonstrators was unprecedented, however, is false. In the fall of 2006, right-wing protesters, infuriated with then Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány, effectively torched Central Budapest, occupied the headquarters of state television and injured four hundred Hungarian police officers. Many Hungarian police officers handled the unrest poorly and unprofessionally and there were examples of police brutality in 2006. One of the grave mistakes of a part of the Hungarian left today was their unwillingness to recognize this. But it is also true that many of those demonstrators were exceptionally violent and they provoked the most serious and most dangerous unrest in Hungary since at least the taxi blockade of 1990.

There is no sign that the current demonstrations are dwindling or that the protesters are ready to quietly go home. And for now, there is also no sign that the Orbán regime is willing to offer some type of compromise. And even if it did, would it now suffice? Fidesz has reason to worry. It cannot be stated emphatically enough that these protests bear no resemblance to the protests Fidesz has become accustomed to over the past eight years. The current ones have every potential to truly get out of control for the regime.

Updates

  • 00:06 Budapest time: Approximately 200 protesters have reached the Presidential Palace–the building is being guarded by riot police. The protesters have drafted the following demands:
    • President János Áder must not approve the so-called “slave law”;
    • The independent judiciary must not be suspended;
    • Hungarians must be treated as humans;
    • Eliminate the Fidesz propaganda media;
    • Orbán must go.
  • 00:02 Budapest time: A group of about two hundred protesters are making their own up to the Castle District in Budapest. Some are literally climbing up steep fields below the walls to the Castle. Presumably they are heading toward the President’s Palace, Sándor Palota.
  • 23:35 Budapest time: A group of demonstrators have successfully occupied the Chain Bridge and are marching across.
  • 23:20 Budapest time: The demonstrators in Kossuth Square have come up with a new chant, set to music: “This demonstration has lost its peaceful character, its peaceful character, its peaceful character! Viktor, prison awaits you!” Meanwhile, at least one protester dumped flour on riot police. The man was then dragged out of the crowd by police officers and taken away behind the line of riot police guarding the steps of parliament.

18 Comments

  1. “The chant that has become popular during the three nights of protests lived on tonight, as “filthy Fidesz” (mocskos Fidesz) filled the streets. Many referred to Prime Minister Viktor Orbán as a traitor, a thief and a dictator.”

    The demonstrating workers, students and citizens of Budapest are right. Viktor Orbán has robbed the ordinary people of Hungary of their dignity, and entitlement to follow on the path leading to justice, the rule of law and sustainable economic development. He and his corrupt gang hijacked the birthright of a new generation to a prosperous and sustainable future.

    Orbán squandered the money European taxpayers gave to this country to pay for the education of its youth. He pumped the money into the construction of soccer stadiums and into his own pockets and those of his corrupt cronies. He destroyed Hungary’s higher education system forcing hundreds of thousands of young people to study abroad and turn their backs on their homeland. He eliminated the fundamental rights of Hungary’s manufacturing workers. He turned Hungary’s public health system into Europe’s sickest ward. He sided with the profit driven foreign multis, and has served up Hungary’s working classes to them on a platter. He has degraded Hungary’s political culture, corrupted its parliamentary system to such an extent, that civil discourse, parliamentary change is well nigh impossible in that country. This perhaps is his greatest crime.

    Viktor Orbán must be held accountable and punished for his crimes., for his civil and human rights abuses. He must be punished for undermining the core values of the European Union. He must be punished for stealing the hard earned billions of European taxpayers. He must be punished for returning Hungary once again into the orbit of the Russian and Chinese dictatorships and for putting Hungary’s security into the hands of a former KGB chief.

    Orbán has no one than himself to blame that the people of Budapest want to chase him out of power with pitchforks in their hands rather than a ballot. He had so corrupted the language of democratic political discourse, the processes of electoral change that no other path but rebellion remains. May Hungarians find somewhere, somehow, the wisdom, the skill to clean away the mess created by this autocrat, may they be granted with the wisdom to build a new home for themselves that is not based on lies and deception, but justice, the rule of law, and sustainable economic development.

    • So what you want for Hungary is a Maidan?

      Well, let us examine that shall we?

      In 2013, Ukraine’s GDP/capita was over $5,000. Now it is about $2,500.

      Wages were also reduced by about 1/3 in dollar terms.

      Still on IMF life support. It would be bust without it. A few million Ukrainians left the country. New government just as corrupt, more authoritarian.

      Now you also claimed that Orban:

      “The demonstrating workers, students and citizens of Budapest are right. Viktor Orbán has robbed the ordinary people of Hungary of their dignity, and entitlement to follow on the path leading to justice, the rule of law and sustainable economic development. He and his corrupt gang hijacked the birthright of a new generation to a prosperous and sustainable future.”

      In 2017 the number of people at risk of poverty in Hungary was under 20% of the population, while it reached almost 35% in 2012-13.

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

      Can you point to a single year since the collapse of communism when this was under 20%? How does this fact square with your claims?

  2. Does any one hear the column of tanks coming ?

    There was no machine gunning down the crowed from the roof-top across Kossuth square.

    And did not read about any arrests.
    As well the labour Unions and workers presenting their objections and demands.
    Only that traffic was blocked on streets and crossing the bridge was not possible.

    Seems from the report this was not a spantanious reaction but an organized disorder.

  3. It is snowing in Budapest and it seems that Orban & Co. has totally lost touch with the younger people of the country. On the gov. controlled TV channel a long report about the “anti-Christian” demonstrators who don’t even respect the Christmas tree on Kossuth Square and the snow sleds around it… I sense nervousness, there are police units at downtown street corners and this could easily spin out of control. Orban might have to introduce a full blown dictatorship… e.g. a curfew.. There is clearly a change in the mood… My take is that he’ll hang onto power as long as no rival (e.g. putsch candidate) appears in his own Fidesz party….

    • “Orban might have to introduce a full blown dictatorship”

      Over a few thousand hooligans in Budapest? You might want to re-think your assessment of who is out of touch! I know you are dreaming of having Hungary destroyed, like the Maidan protests did to Ukraine and its economy. So, you are letting your mind extrapolate, due to wishful thinking. But given how you feel about Hungarians, none of us are surprised with this anymore.

      The protest is not growing. It is the exact same hooligans coming out each night.

      And, no those few thousand hooligans do not represent the younger people of the country. They only represent themselves. The country voted this year. And if it absolutely must be, it will vote again. That is the voice of the people!

      • „… none of us are surprised with this anymore.“ Who is us, us is not me. The real hungarian haters are types like you. For you, Hungary is Orban, that’s your little world. You’re a denouncer that’s all.

  4. Well, Maidan resulted that Yanukovych asked for asylum in Putin’s Moscow… that is a very realistic escape route for Orban… Moscow is the only capital would welcome him… Orban is a “papertiger”… his regime may collapse… if his riot-police “switches sides” on Kossuth Square it can happen sooner. The question is… Will this situation spin out of control? We’ll see…

    • It also resulted in a dramatic decline in living standards (GDP/capita half of what it was in 2013), in Ukraine’s long term economic viability,in its demographic viability. And Yanukovic was replaced by street protests, while the elected leaders since then are less popular now than Yanukovic ever was. Anyone who wishes that on Hungary can only be an enemy of Hungary!

      • „Anyone who wishes that on Hungary can only be an enemy of Hungary!“ Is that one plus one is one or three, depends on your feeling, no Question mark Is not Orban the responsible one, no Question mark If orban is master over his rubbish heap then Gyorgy is to blame Question mark Your stupidity has no limits.

  5. This labour law is not new, but an extension of an existing law which required people to work a mere 250 hours overtime per year; and the remuneration for this overtime had to be paid within one year.

    What I find amazing is not that people are protesting the increase of said compulsory overtime to 400 hour ( an extra day each week) and the delay in remuneration to three years, (if you resign inside the three year period the overtime pay is forfeited); but that the original 250hr/1 yr law was not protested, and not by a meager 3000 or so.

    Can’t imagine what would happen if an Australian government tried to introduce something like this; general strike at a minimum with the unions and the business council marching arm in arm on parliament.

  6. @ Joe and Bendy goose

    Of course, it’s never over until it’s over, but as MLK Jr said, we shall overcome !!!!!

    The fantasy world of Viktor Orbán, built on lies, deception and the exploitation of millions of Hungarians, will not last forever. The corrupt thieves that stole billions of Euros from the people of Hungary are trembling in their boots. No wonder you two are here under assumed names to cheer on the mini-rail enthusiast of Felcsút. You trolls will badly regret, that you allowed your puppet-master to eliminate the use of parliamentary methods for political succession in Hungary. Judgement day is coming !!!

    • “Of course, it’s never over until it’s over, but as MLK Jr said, we shall overcome !!!!!”

      I agree, but you are confusing the actors!

      The globalists are the ones in power in the Western World, and the patriots are the ones challenging the system.

      • Patriots like you, buahhh. Not that I would find capitalism so good, if we had something better. Do you have something better?

        You know, your globalists are trying to stand up against other economic powers. Basically, it’s easy to understand … ok the british are not so smart are you a british?

        A British politician from Pakistan campaigned for the Brexit, with lies against the foreigners. You can see that she has Pakistani roots. She is a patriot but also totally stupid.

  7. Dear Joe, Obviously you are a pro-Putin Yanukovych supporter… I have a feeling you’ll have a hard time to find comrades among Hungarian Americans. Of course, you are entitled to express pro-Putin sentiments in the opinion section of HFP. Hungary is already one of the poorest countries of Europe and under Orban’s leadership it became the poorest of the Visegrad 4. Credit rating is just above “junk” and (as I wrote it before) a run on the Forint would finish his tenure.

    • And you are obviously a pro-Ukro-Nazi coup supporter! How can you not be, when they firebomb buildings belonging to the ethnic Hungarian minority in Ukraine?

      As for you other comment? Here are the facts:

      In 2002, when the socialists came into power, Hungary’s GDP/capita was slightly higher than Slovakia’s. By 2010 Slovakia was 25% higher in this regard, not to mention that Hungary’s economy was left in the ditch, spinning its wheels in FX debt and on IMF support, while Slovakia was in relatively good health. Despite that, Hungary’s GDP/capita is now only down to about 10% lower than Slovakia and still catching up, while Hungary’s economy has been deleveraging from its heavy government and consumer debt burden. So who is responsible for Hungary’s sorry state?

      https://tradingeconomics.com/hungary/gdp-per-capita

      Too bad we live in the era of instant information isn’t it?

  8. @ Joe

    After your latest fake-news, you gloat: “Too bad we live in the era of instant information isn’t it?”

    Yes, it is too bad for you Bazooka Joe. Your efforts to portray the failing Orbán autocracy as a great success is as flimsy as your underwear. (Check on it troll – me thinks, it’s coming apart at the seam.) Hungary’s national debt as a share of GDP is at roughly the same place as it was when Mr. Orbán took over and promised to reduce the debt. According to the latest Eurostat figures on living conditions in Europe, Hungary continues to fall behind its neighbors’ living standards. Even Rumania has surpassed her during the past couple of years. Only Bulgary scores lower than Hungary in the entire European Union. The fact is, Hungary is the sick man of Europe, while Joe comes here to tell us Orbán’s Hungary is the Superman on the block.

    For evidence of the above In English see:
    https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/web/products-statistical-books/-/KS-DZ-18-001

    For the same in Hungarian: https://hvg.hugazdasag20181214_Eurostat_a_masodik_legszegenyebb_nep_a_magyar_az_EUban#rssn

    If quality of life does not matter Joe, why don’t you go and stand in front of the demonstrators in Budapest and tell that to their faces ? Be sure to wear a hard hat and a goalie’s mask for your protection. As for that composite picture of the mess Orbán made of the Hungarian economy, don’t panic, troll, I will deliver my little study shortly. That will demonstrate in an empirically verifiable manner what a dummy you are to come here and lie to us on a daily basis.

    • With all due respect, I backed my argument with clear reference to data “Fake News”.

      You on the other hand reference data which does not make distinction between cause and effect.

      Let me ask you something! If tomorrow we were to install the world’s best possible government in South Sudan, the world’s poorest country, after a decade of good governance would South Sudan not still be one of the world’s poorest countries? Using your genius academic logic here, we would have to condemn that government as a failure, because South Sudan would still be a crap hole.

      The argument you keep making is 100% geared towards ignoring Orban’s 2010 starting point. In other words what was inherited, then you go on to stick him with the effects of the mess left over from previous government.

      Then you add in some lies and distortions, such as: “Even Rumania has surpassed her during the past couple of years.”. Have you been to Romania lately? Wages are in fact significantly lower. As bad as services in Hungary may be, such as health care, in Romania it is far worse. Infrastructure is a mess and so on and so on! The only thing that keeps families in Romania afloat is the money being sent home by roughly 4 million Romanians who live & work abroad. Many of them send money to multiple families (parents, siblings, cousins). According to IMF, 2017 GDP/capita was over $15,000 in Hungary, under $11,000 in Romania.

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