Opposition Parties Stage Demonstration for Direct Presidential Election in Budapest

  • 26 Feb 2024 6:54 AM
Opposition Parties Stage Demonstration for Direct Presidential Election in Budapest
Opposition parties held a demonstration for the direct election of the head of state in downtown Budapest on Sunday.

 At the event held at Kossuth Lajos Square in front of Parliament, speakers from the Democratic Coalition (DK), Momentum, the Socialist Party and Párbeszéd criticised Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s “regime” and a pardon granted by outgoing President Katalin Novák to the deputy head of a children’s home convicted of covering up child abuse.

Klára Dobrev, DK’s shadow prime minister, insisted that the responsibility for the child abuse case at the Bicske children’s home lay with “Orbán’s Fidesz-linked paedophile ring”, but “they won’t be able to make this network disappear with legislative amendments”.

She said the ruling parties were now “scrambling to elect someone who looks like a president”, calling the process “a presidential election coup” that she said was needed “because Viktor Orbán is afraid of the people”.

Tímea Szabó, acting co-leader of Párbeszéd, said freedom in Hungary today was under threat “from Viktor Orbán and his paedophile ring”. She insisted that “Orbán’s entire regime is guilty, most of all the prime minister.”

Ágnes Kunhalmi, co-leader of the Socialists, said those actually responsible for the Bicske child abuse case were “hidden in the shadows”, adding that those staying silent on the case were accomplices. She also said the opposition parties should field joint election lists for both the European Parliament and municipal elections.

Momentum lawmaker Dávid Bedő said it had still not been explained why the accomplice of a child abuser had been granted a pardon. He said that in addition to a direct presidential election, the opposition should also be demanding justice for victims of abuse.

Budapest Mayor Gergely Karácsony said Hungary had a government which had spent more on “state propaganda” than on social and child protection. He said the government was spending “tens and hundreds of billions a year on repeating that it is against migration and for families while releasing people smugglers and the accomplices of paedophile monsters from prison”.

Gyurcsány: 'Democrats Obliged to Cooperate'

“Democrats are obliged to cooperate in the fight against [Prime Minister Viktor] Orbán’s regime, but not everyone thinks the same way about this cooperation,” Ferenc Gyurcsány, the leader of the opposition Democratic Coalition (DK), said in a speech assessing the past year on Saturday.

Gyurcsány said those in the opposition who wanted to fight both the government and the rest of the opposition were setting themselves up for defeat and their opponents for victory.

He said 2023 had been a difficult year for the world, but “the most rubbish year” for Hungary in a long time. He said the government and “democrats” disagreed on the reasons for the international order coming unbalanced.

He said it was right for a country to try to manoeuvre between the global powers in a complex and contradictory international situation, adding, at the same time, that manoeuvring “cannot be treason”.

Gyurcsány said the one aspect of any international conflict DK and the government agreed on was that Israel had a right to defend itself after Hamas’s terrorist attack, even if what was happening in Gaza right now “gives cause for concern”.

Turning to domestic politics, Gyurcsány said the fierceness of political debates in Hungary was about deciding whether the country should be “Christian, as [ruling] Fidesz says, or civic, which sums up what democrats want”.

“Hungary is the country of believers and non-believers, Christians and non-Christians,” he said, arguing that “if the homeland belongs to everyone, it cannot identify itself solely with the faith of a single group”. Gyurcsány said DK considered Fidesz’s system “unconstitutional” because “they strive to obtain and hold absolute power”.

He said DK would not view Tamás Sulyok, the ruling parties’ nominee for head of state, as president if he is elected, but as “Viktor Orbán’s employee”, arguing that Sulyok, as head of the Constitutional Court, had already been playing “an active role in creating, consolidating and upholding Orbán’s unconstitutional power”.

Meanwhile, Gyurcsány said the past three weeks had been “shocking”, as it had come to light that individuals close to the government had abused children, “and the highest-ranking state officials tried and are trying to … cover up these crimes”. He insisted that this “permanently tarnishes Viktor Orbán’s regime, making the prime minister the number one leader of dishonesty”.

Ruling Fidesz in response said in a statement that Gyurcsány was still the leader of the “dollar left”, and they “still refuse to take responsibility for their crimes”.

The party said Gyurcsány’s speech was “once again all about their aim to gain power at all cost”.

“They still refuse to take responsibility for their actions…,” Fidesz said, adding that with Gyurcsány “crimes have no consequences”.

The party said Gyurcsány wanted to get back into power after having “pushed the country into a crisis in eight years, scrapped one month of pension and eliminated family support” as prime minister.

Meanwhile, Mayor Says Budapest Won't Compromise on Its Own & Others' Freedom

Mayor Gergely Karácsony said at a demonstration held on Saturday to mark the second anniversary of the start of the war in Ukraine that Budapest will not compromise on its own or others’ freedom, expressing solidarity with the Ukrainian people.

Karácsony said that the demonstration held near the Russian embassy in central Budapest was meant to send “a message to Putin and Putin’s students” that “Budapest will not compromise on its own freedom or on the freedom of others”.

“We are here today to stand with the courageous Ukrainian people and send the message to the world that although we may have a worthless government, we are not a worthless nation,” Karácsony said.

The mayor expressed shame over Hungary’s incumbent government, insisting that there were conflicts in which it did not come into question whether one sides with the aggressor or the victim.

“Budapest knows what it is like when Russian tanks roll along its streets. Budapest knows how hard it is to stand up for freedom. But Budapest knows, too, that if there is no freedom, then there is nothing, either,” said Karácsony.

Katalin Cseh, an MEP of opposition Momentum, the chief organiser of the event, said that “Vladimir Putin’s brutal, bloody, inhumane war has been going on in Ukraine for two years now,” with Ukraine fighting “its freedom fight against oppression under a terror which is unimaginable for us overall”.

She called for standing with and helping Ukraine, saying that “it is our duty to show the world that the Hungarian nation will not serve the interests of Vladimir Putin, a war criminal … We are not siding with a war criminal,” said Cseh.

She noted that more than 500 children had been killed and some 20,000 Ukrainian children had been deported by the Russians in the war. 

The Momentum MEP called it “shameful” that “Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has made assistance to Ukraine subject to blackmail because of his questionable and shady dealings with Putin”.

“It is a primary goal for us all that Hungary should not be dragged into the war, but one who acts as a servant to an aggressor in a war is one with a pro-war mind-set.

Viktor Orbán is one doing so, Viktor Orbán is a pro-war [politician],” Cseh said. At the demonstration, participants observed a minute of silence to pay tribute to the victims of the war.

MTI Photo: Tibor  Illyés

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