Tens of thousands of Hungarians marched in opposition to Prime Minister Viktor Orbán for the second week in a row on Saturday night.
Demonstrators called for a free media and independent civil society, with an NGO leader and a former reporter from Magyar Nemzet — an oligarch-owned newspaper critical of the prime minister that closed down days after Orbán’s landslide election victory earlier this month — addressing the crowd.
The most high-profile speaker was Péter Márki-Zay, an independent conservative and political novice who defeated a Fidesz candidate in a mayoral by-election in the southern town of Hódmezővásárhely in February. Opposition supporters hope he can unite their highly fragmented ranks, as someone who could appeal to nationalist-minded voters in the countryside while not alienating liberal-leaning Budapest voters.
Orbán’s right-wing Fidesz party won almost 50 percent of the vote in a general election on April 8 to secure two-thirds of seats in parliament. His government has been accused by opposition leaders, rights activists and Western politicians of backsliding on democracy and the rule of law.
Parliament is expected to pass legislation next month that will make it impossible for some NGOs to continue operating in Hungary. Orbán says such organizations are meddling in domestic politics.
The protesters plan to stage another demonstration on May 8. Past anti-Orbán protest movements fizzled out after a few weeks, and the next rally will test organizers’ ability to keep crowds motivated.