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By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife
BUDAPEST, HUNGARY (BosNewsLife)– Thousands of Hungarians have protested against the government’s move towards Russia in the latest demonstration attacking policies of the perceived autocratic Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and his center right administration.
Friday’s protest in front of Budapest opera house came amid mounting pressure on Orbán to change direction, as his support plunged in polls at the end of 2014, despite securing three election victories in the year.
Angry Hungarians shouted anti-government slogans and were seen holding placards including “game over” as they criticized what they viewed as Orbán’s gamble with Moscow.
Protesters said Orbán should not forge closer ties with Russia, Hungary’s former Communist ruler.
The prime minister has vowed to remake Hungary into a “non-liberal” state and mentioned Russia as a role model along with countries such as Singapore, Russia, Turkey and China.
Critics are also furious that he accepted a roughly $12 billion dollar loan from Russia to expand a nuclear plant, which they claim will extend Russia’s influence over Hungary and eventually the rest of Europe.
Additionally, demonstrators expressed anger at the political elite, accusing them of failing to take Hungary forwards in the quarter of a century since the fall of communism.
“We condemn the parties of the last 25 years… We cannot expect the state to think for us,” said Zsolt Várady, one of the protest organisers told the crowd. “It is important for people to demonstrate,” he added.
Friday’s rally was part of a wider protest movement that began in October when Orbán’s government proposed the world’s first tax on Internet usage.
Opposition activists viewed that as part of a wider crackdown on media following controversial legislation, and the idea was later scrapped.
Yet, protests have continued against his government’s perceived interference in previously independent institutions ranging from media, to the central bank and even churches.
The government is also under pressure over its centralization of education and public administration.
Additionally there has been outrage over reports of high level corruption and poverty in this European Union nation of some 10 million people.
Organisers have called another protest for February 1, the day before German Chancellor Angela Merkel visits Budapest.