Mass Protest in Hungary Exposes Rift After Orban Win

Mass Protest in Hungary Exposes Rift After Orban WinMass Protest in Hungary Exposes Rift After Orban Win

Tens of thousands of Hungarians packed Budapest’s most iconic avenue to protest Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s reelection, saying it may further stifle democratic freedoms in the ex-Communist European Union member.

Protesters marched on Saturday from the Opera on Andrassy Avenue to the square in front of parliament in the biggest anti-government protest in years. Organizers demanded a new ballot and an overhaul of the election system, saying current rules favored the incumbent. They urged new protests next weekend. Opposition parties have called for a probe into alleged irregularities in Sunday’s vote, Bloomberg reported.

Orban won a crushing victory by pledging a fight against EU plans to allocate refugees across the bloc and a crackdown on civil society groups. Since 2010, Orban has centralized power by appointing allies to the helm of independent institutions, including the courts, and extending his influence over much of the media.

The demonstration in Budapest exposed deep divisions in Hungarian society. Orban’s Fidesz party won 50% of the votes in the election but a fragmented opposition and the gerrymandering of electoral districts resulted in a two-thirds parliamentary supermajority for the ruling party. That means Orban can pass any law without opposition support.

Pro-government media labeled the protest as an attack by the “Soros empire,” in reference to George Soros, the Hungarian-born US billionaire who funds non-governmental organizations. Orban made Soros the central target during the election campaign and derided the opposition as his pawns.

The European Parliament is currently debating whether to recommend initiating a process that could lead to the suspension of Hungary’s voting rights in the trading bloc. The full 751-member chamber is scheduled to vote on the issue in September.



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