Protests continue in Budapest against “slave law”

Protesters again took to the streets in Budapest to demonstrate against the “slave law” on Thursday evening. The demonstration started peacefully but police later responded to aggressive protestors with teargas.

MTI correspondents reported from the site that several protesters were wearing masks despite the organisers asking participants at the start of the event not to cover their faces. The demonstration was announced by the Free University and Students Trade Union student groups. The crowd started moving from Kossuth Square near Parliament at 6pm and crossed over to Buda on Margaret Bridge where they marched along the riverbank and returned to Pest over Chain Bridge.

The crowd stopped in front of the prosecutor’ office in Marko Street and chanted “we demand free courts!” before moving back to Kossuth Square in front of Parliament where they almost completely filled the square. Some of the participants were holding Hungarian and European Union flags, as well as flags of the opposition Momentum, Jobbik, LMP and Parbeszed parties.

Police formed several lines on the steps of the Parliament to protect the building.
The police chief said that police have been instructed to wear protective gear, including body shields and helmets.

According to the opposition parties, this week’s parliamentary sessions were not conducted lawfully. At a news conference held after Thursday’s House Rules Committee meeting, Tamas Harangozo, the Socialist Party’s deputy group leader, said Monday’s parliamentary agenda had been adopted unlawfully, since the opposition parties’ proposed amendments should have been voted on separately and not all in one go. From that time on, the entire week’s sessions and fines meted out to opposition lawmakers were illegal, he insisted.

In lieu of the disruptive action the opposition took on Monday, Speaker of Parliament Laszlo Kover today proposed fines of 400,000-600,000 forints (EUR 1,235-1,850) to be paid by Socialist lawmakers Bertalan Toth, Ildiko Borbely Bango, Tamas Harangozo, Agnes Kunhalmi, Sandor Szabo and Bence Tordai (Parbeszed), and Laszlo Varju (Democratic Coalition). The speaker’s proposal must be approved by the Parliament. Meanwhile, the Socialist Party leader said his party had organised Wednesday’s disruptive action in parliament. Bertalan Toth told a press conference that he had got members of his own parliamentary group and other parties to mount the protest at the speaker’s podium but he had told the lawmakers not to commit any violent act. He said he would stand in solidarity with his fellow opposition MPs whatever may take place in the coming period. He added that he rejected the speaker’s “threats” of punishment.

Toth said Socialist MPs took responsibility for their actions because they consider the procedure to adopt the “slave law” illegal and unlawful. He vowed to do everything possible to “eliminate” the law, and he called on the opposition parties to unite on the issue.

An opposition Jobbik party official said the “illegitimate slave law” would bring Hungarian workers to their knees. Janos Stummer, the party’s deputy leader, told a separate news conference that Orban’s government had acted “against the Hungarian nation” by adopting the law amendment which, he insisted, was rejected by the majority of employees in the country. He slammed the government for allowing MPs in Wednesday’s session to vote without their parliamentary identity cards. He also said unauthorised people had been allowed in the chamber, including armed bodyguards.
“What is this if not trampling all over Hungarian democracy and Hungarian democratic traditions?” Stummer also criticised left-wing MPs who “behaved in a manner unworthy of their position”.

He also condemned public protesters outside Parliament who damaged the country’s Christmas tree in Kossuth Square and who threw eggs at Parliament during a demonstration in the evening.

The Fidesz parliamentary group said in a statement in reaction to Toth’s press conference that the Socialists MPs who whipped up a disturbance in parliament were the same ones who, when in government, had “made a million people unemployed”. “The opposition, in a hopeless position, made clowns of themselves in parliament, acting aggressively and colluding with the Soros organisations that organised violent street protests,” the ruling party said.

Fidesz, it added, was “on the side of employees” and had always been a government of job creation. “The point of the labour code amendment is to ensure that those who want to work and earn more don’t face bureaucratic obstacles,” the statement said.

Source and photo: MTI

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