Hungarians protest Orban′s ties to Russia | News | DW | 02.01.2015

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Hungarians protest Orban's ties to Russia

Thousands of Hungarians have been protesting against the policies of Prime Minister Viktor Orban. Among the demonstrators' complaints was an apparent move towards Moscow and away from democracy.

Thousands of Hungarians flocked to the center of Budapest, opposing a perceived government policy of centralization and rapprochement with the Kremlin.

Demonstrators gathered in front of Budapest opera house carrying placards denouncing Orban, whose party has seen a sharp drop in support in recent months.

Protesters said they were demonstrating against poverty and accused the government of undermining checks and balances put in place to prevent abuse of power. Washington and Brussels have both accused Orban's government of restricting media freedom and weakening the independence of the country's judiciary.

Online tax put on hold

Demonstrators have also accused the government of failing to tackle corruption and develop the economy. The protests have been held regularly over the past two months, and were sparked by a government plan to introduce a levy on Internet use. The government has since shelved its plan to introduce the tax.

"I think it is important for people to demonstrate," organizer Zsolt Varady said in a speech at the rally. "The politicians have gone far away from reality. They don't seem to represent the public's views."

The protesters expressed anger not only at Orban, but all the political parties who have held power since the fall of communism a quarter of a century ago.

"We condemn the parties of the last 25 years... We cannot expect the state to think for us," Varady told the crowd.

Pro-Russian or pro-Hungarian?

Critics claim the present government's cooperation with Russia in the energy sector - including a loan from Moscow to upgrade a nuclear plant and Budapest's support for the Russian-backed South Stream gas pipeline project - shows that Orban is seeking closer ties with Putin.

Orban has also vowed to make Hungary a "non-liberal" state, and last month called for the mandatory drug testing of journalists and politicians.

rc/bk (AP, AFP, dpa)

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