Saturday’s rally exposed the country’s deep divisions following the re-election of Prime Minister Viktor Orban, with protesters demanding a new national electoral system.
“We want new and fair elections,” opposition activist Gergely Gulyas told the huge crowd. “This is the responsibility of the government and we’re going to remind them of this, peacefully and massively.”
Orban, whose campaign focused on the demonization of migrants, has promised “significant changes” in his next government, which could push for a constitutional amendment against migration.
A fragmented opposition, a complex electoral system that disproportionately favours the biggest party and Orban’s decision to greatly facilitate citizenship for Hungarians living in neighbouring countries like Romania and Serbia all contributed to his large win on April 8.
Over 96 per cent of voters in those bordering countries — including areas that Hungary lost after the First World War — backed Orban’s Fidesz party.
“When I asked my grandparents why they allowed (communist dictator) Matyas Rakosi to stay in power for so long, they answered that they were scared,” writer and journalist Gergely Homonnay, one of the rally’s organizers, told protesters. “Well, I’m not scared. We’re not scared.”
Homonnay said protesters had three requests: changing the electoral system “which forever cements Fidesz in power”; ousting chief prosecutor Peter Polt, an Orban ally, because “as long as he is in office not a single corruption case will be investigated”; and getting Fidesz out of state media, which has become an unabashed promoter of government propaganda in recent years.
Orban claims that opposition parties want to turn Hungary into an “immigrant nation” with the help of the European Union, the United Nations and Hungarian-American billionaire and philanthropist George Soros. Opposition members deny the claim.
At the end of the rally Saturday, participants sang Hungary’s national anthem, as well as the EU anthem, which is based on Ludwig van Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy.”