Tens of thousands rally against Hungary's Orban after sex abuse pardon scandal

February 17, 2024 1:54 pm

[Source: Reuters]

Tens of thousands of Hungarians protested in Budapest on Friday at the biggest rally against Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government for years, after a sex-abuse case pardon by President Katalin Novak caused public uproar and led to her resignation.

Conservative Orban, who has been in power since 2010, has sought to defuse the week-old scandal that brought down two of his key political allies, the president and former justice minister Judit Varga, but it has continued to dominate domestic media.

While the turmoil poses no immediate threat to Orban’s rule, with 2026 elections still far off, it comes ahead of European parliament elections in June in which his party is hoping to gain from a rise in far-right support across Europe.

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The uncovering of the pardon triggered a public outcry and nine online influencers, among them hugely popular singer Azahriah, called for a protest in Budapest’s historic Heroes’ Square.

Tens of thousands of demonstrators, including many young people, squeezed into the huge square, with more filling the avenues leading towards it and others still marching there.

“We have had enough. We need change, this government is full of lies and hypocrisy,” said Jozsef Molnar, 64, who added that his 19 year old son was also out protesting. Molnar said the last time he went to a protest was in 1989 during the time when communism collapsed.

“We are here for the future, and our grandchildren.”

The organisers of the protest in a Facebook post asked “how many more similar issues are there that we don’t know about, and that have been covered up?”.

“Irrespective of the (political) sides, we believe it is important for us to speak out in support of a protection of the victims (of abuse), transparency, human dignity and honest public dialogue,” they wrote.