Several thousand people took to the streets of the Hungarian capital Budapest on Saturday to protest against the new law labour law passed in December and criticise the authoritarianism of Viktor Orban’s nationalist government.
Organised by the opposition, trade unions and civil society movements, the event aimed to denounce the new legislation dubbed the slave law – which allows businesses to request up to 400 hours a year in overtime, equivalent two months extra work, payable three years later.
Protesters marched from the Heroes’ Square to Parliament’s headquarters on the banks of the Danube.
This reform of the labour law was the origin of a series of peaceful parades since mid – December. But beyond the reform of new law, it is the government of Viktor Orban himself that these protesters oppose.
“We disagree with virtually everything that has happened since this government took office [in 2010] , including all this corruption and pseudo-democracy,” said Eva Demeter, a 50-year-old housewife in the crowd. “There have already been big demonstrations, which have stopped, but the anger seems more important now because this slave law affects more people,” she added.
The opposition also calls for the removal of a recent reform of the judiciary threatening to reduce the independence of judges, and more freedom for the public media.
The government, meanwhile, sees in the protest movement the hand of supporters of “mass immigration“ to the European Union and “criminals“ encouraged by the billionaire American of Hungarian origin George Soros, a favourite target for Orban’s ire.
Comfortably re-elected for a third consecutive term in April, Viktor Orban, an admirer of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has since established a form of “illiberal democracy“ , that has been roundly condemned by the European Union.