Monday, April 16, 2018, 14:00
Tens of thousands of Hungarians demonstrated in Budapest Saturday against the re-elected Fidesz-KDNP coalition led by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. Opponents of the government flooded from the Opera House to Parliament to protest at what they say is an unfair electoral system, according to media reports.
Orbán won a third straight term in power in elections on April 8 on the back of a strongly anti-immigrant campaign. The incumbent coalition has regained a two-thirds supermajority in the National Assembly, with final results showing that Fidesz and its ally the Christian Democratic Peopleʼs Party (KDNP) won 133 seats in the 199-seat legislature.
Opposition protesters complained that Hungary’s electoral rules – a hybrid of first-past-the-post voting and proportional representation – have given the governing coalition such a large majority in Parliament despite it winning only around 49% of the popular vote.
Organizers of the anti-government protests have demanded a recount of all ballots, a new election law, a non-partisan public media, and better-organized co-operation among parties opposed to the Fidesz government.
The march was organized through a Facebook group called “We are the majority.” Following the large turn-out for Saturdayʼs rally, which the BBCʼs correspondent Nick Thorpe estimated at “around 100,000 people,” the organizers have called for a further demonstration next weekend.
The protest was among the biggest in Hungary in recent years, similar in size to a mass rally prompted by Orbán’s plan to tax internet use four years ago and a pro-government demonstration called by Orbán supporters shortly before the election.
A large number of police were deployed in the capital, including riot officers, however the demonstration remained peaceful. Online Hungarian news portal index.hu observed that the protests featured the unusual sight of both Hungarian and EU flags being carried alongside the Árpád stripes of the right-wing nationalist Jobbik, which came second in the April 8 elections.
An OSCE election observersʼ report following the vote last week criticized the election process for what it perceived as “a pervasive overlap between state and ruling party resources, undermining contestants’ ability to compete on an equal basis.” It also noted “intimidating and xenophobic rhetoric, media bias and opaque campaign financing constricted the space for genuine political debate, hindering voters’ ability to make a fully-informed choice.”
Government blames Soros again
“The Saturday demonstration was not a private initiative, but an event organized by the Soros network from George Soros’s money because in actual fact it is he who cannot accept the result of last week’s election,” Antal Rogán, the minister heading the Cabinet Office of the Prime Minister, was cited as saying on Kossuth Radio by official government website kormany.hu.
“Those who cry foul failed to uncover any procedural error on the basis of which they could have contested the results or could have turned to the election committees. This is nothing but a political flea circus,” Rogán stated.
He added that the government has been given a robust mandate against the aspirations of the EU, NATO, or even George Soros.