Thousands Turn Out to Support Orban

Thousands march in Budapest to back right-wing government
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Oct 23, 2021 2:06 PM CDT
Orban, Opposition Candidate Address Budapest Rallies
Hungarian opposition candidate Peter Marki-Zay addresses several thousand supporters Saturday in Budapest. Marki-Zay said he will lead a coalition in doing away with the corruption, crackdowns on the media, and abuse of government institutions that he says has occurred under Orban's rule.   (AP Photo/Laszlo Balogh)

Tens of thousands of supporters of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and his right-wing government marched in Budapest on Saturday in a demonstration of unity behind the populist leader's contentious policies that have led to challenges to his power both in Hungary and the European Union. The rally was dubbed a peace march, and participants gathered along the western bank of the Danube River and departed across Liberty Bridge, winding through downtown Budapest toward the site of a rare public speech by Orban. In it, Orban painted a dark picture of what Hungarians could expect if he is defeated in a national election scheduled for next spring, the AP reports.

The prime minister enumerated his government's economic achievements and blasted Hungary's previous socialist government, which he accused of leading the country to financial ruin. "It took us years to rectify the destruction of the left wing," Orban said. "The socialists and their leader have remained hanging around our necks." The march was organized by nongovernmental organization Civil Unity Forum, a promoter of the policies of Orban's Fidesz party, which has dominated Hungary's parliament with a two-thirds majority since 2010. That's when Orban took office.

The group's chairman, Laszlo Csizmadia, said before the march that the event was meant to demonstrate Hungary's sovereignty to the EU, which he said had "undeservedly" attacked Hungary in recent attempts to reign in what the bloc sees as democratic backsliding. "We think that we have a right to state our opinions in the long term in the European Union," Csizmadia said. Laszlo Csendes came to the march from Veszprem, 75 miles southwest of Budapest. He said Orban's performance since 2010 had led to prosperity. "There are new jobs, you've just got to look around," Csendes said. "There's money for everything, and for everyone."

Hungary's six largest opposition parties formed a coalition to challenge Orban's party in upcoming elections, choosing independent Peter Marki-Zay to challenge Orban. A self-described conservative Christian, Marki-Zay has argued he can appeal both to liberal voters and disaffected Fidesz supporters. At a joint opposition demonstration that drew several thousand supporters in Budapest on Saturday, Marki-Zay said the coalition would do away with corruption, crackdowns on the media, and abuse of government institutions. "Our basic goals for all of us, left and right, is for Hungary to be a democracy, to be governed by the rule of law in a market economy and as part of the European Union," Marki-Zay said.

(Read more Hungary stories.)

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