In Budapest, thousands gathered from both the right and left to challenge the dark future Orbán’s election represents
Thousands of Hungarians protested outside the parliament in Hungary’s capital last week, expressing anger after the election victory of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán Fidesz’s hard right government party.
Hungarians from different ideological backgrounds, from extreme-right’s skinheads to the new-left Budapest hipsters, chanted “Dirty Fidesz!” unison. What unites them? The feeling that they have no future in their country under a nationalistic leader who’s rejecting EU values.
Most of the protesters were millennials, born around the collapse of communism in 1991. Since then, Hungary has emerged as an independent democracy, but is now sliding fast towards authoritarianism.
On April 8, the Fidesz party won an overwhelming victory securing Orbán’s third straight term as Prime Minister, through a ferocious anti-immigration campaign that presented Hungary as the defender of ‘Christian values’ against the threat of globalisation. The populist message dominated the media and resonated with millions of voters, mostly in rural areas.
Within days of the election result, a major opposition newspaper, Magyar Nemzet, was shut down. What’s more, a new bill enabling the government to ban non-governmental-organisations (NGOs) that support immigration and are deemed a ‘security threat’, is expected to be introduced any day.
Dazed spoke to some protesters to find out what drove them out onto the streets.
KATALIN SENKI, 22, A STUDENT FROM SOMOGYSARD
“One of the main reasons I protested was because of corruption: Orbán and his inner circle have stolen public money and EU funds. Another reason is the lies they tell us through the media, which is completely controlled by Orbán. Free media no longer exists.
My sense of justice is against the system that Orbán created, in which he blames others for Hungary’s social problems, and makes people afraid of sticking to their own beliefs. I’m disgusted at how they portray migrants as animals and not people. I fear the unknown, like everyone else. But without reliable sources of information, how can I make any decisions about immigration? Orbán should concentrate more on the state of the healthcare system because it’s in ruins.
I want to stay in Hungary, I believe this is where I belong. Next year, I’ll be qualified as a Hungarian and English teacher. Children must be taught how to evaluate things and think critically, otherwise we won't ever be able to end this regime. I want to do something for my country badly and this seems to be the right path for me.”
SAMUEL KORANDI, 26, A CIVIL ENGINEER FROM BUDAPEST
“I want politicians and ordinary people to take courage and step up to form a new opposition. There’s no way we’ll be able to elect a new leader if our opposition remains weak and fragmented.
The education system is in a bad state. My parents – both teachers – have other professions on the side to earn a decent income. My father who’s worked as a teacher for 45 years earns 600 euros a month, meanwhile someone who works as a supermarket cashier gets 800-900 euros. It’s not surprising that more and more young, educated people are emigrating to Western Europe for work. I’m also hoping to go abroad, which is why I’m working for an international company.
I’m fed up with living in a system based on the concept of “those who are not with us are against us” – this “knife-pulling” cynicism toward all the people who dare to criticise Orbán.
No one has the chance to go out on the street for a walk without seeing propagandist advertisements saying ‘Hungary’s gaining strength’, or the more disgusting ones ‘If you come to Hungary you must respect our culture’, ‘The UN wants to deport migrants to Hungary’, ‘STOP Brussels’. This campaign of hatred has created a choking atmosphere. Some people in Hungary are afraid that they’ll be forced to keep migrants in their house so they vote for Fidesz. And when you start to hate migrants you start to hate all who are a bit different; the people of Budapest, the Hungarians of Transylvania, and the people in the countryside.”
DÁNIEL BÁNLAKY, 19, A STUDENT FROM BUDAPEST
“The political situation Orbán has gotten much worse over the past four years and it’s affecting everyone. You feel it, for example, when you go to the hospital, there are not enough doctors and there’s hardly any supplies. The international community needs to speak up and the EU should introduce sanctions against Hungary since Orbán is clearly going against its values. I’m glad that this is already being discussed.
If I would have to choose an opposition party, it would be the MKKP (The Two-tailed Dog Party). They showed me something that’s been missing from the Hungarian political scene for a long time: that opposition parties can still do something for society. They allowed schools and hospitals to apply for their leftover campaign money to buy, for example, new resources.
I would like to stay in Hungary, but sadly, I think I’ll have to work abroad – not for financial reasons, mostly because I don’t want to live under a dictatorship.
The protests might not change anything but they show the rest of the government and the rest of the world, that not every Hungarian likes the Fidesz party, and I think that’s worth something.”