Rival Rallies Mark Hungary’s 1956 Revolution Anniversary (Worthy News In-Depth)
By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News reporting from Budapest, Hungary
(Worthy News) – Hungary’s opposition candidate for prime minister has pledged to “fight for freedom and a new constitution but against corruption” amid European Union worries about the future of his nation.
Péter Márki-Zay spoke in an interview with Worthy News after massive government and opposition rallies marked the 65th anniversary of the 1956 Revolution against Soviet Union domination and communism.
The freedom fight was crushed by Soviet soldiers prompting some 200,000 Hungarians to flee while thousands were killed and injured.
Rival rallies underscored that the 1956 Revolution remains an open wound in this nation, dividing sentiments often along with political affiliations.
At a so-called “Peace March,” tens of thousands of people supported Hungary’s hardline populist Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and his right-wing government.
Armed with Hungarian flags, many walked along the western bank of the Danube River crossing Liberty Bridge through downtown Budapest where Orbán spoke to his supporters.
He warned that Hungary would lose its sovereignty if he were defeated in the April elections. They are due to be the most serious challenge to his power since he took office in 2010.
For the first time, he faces a united front of opposition parties, including the Socialists, liberals, and the formerly far-right, now conservative Jobbik.
Orbán told the crowd that Washington and U.S. billionaire George Soros were trying to get their people in power. He claimed that they wanted the Hungarian leftist opposition to govern, using money, media, and networks.
“But what matters is not what they in Brussels, in Washington and in the media which is directed from abroad, want. It will be Hungarians deciding about their fate,” Orbán said on Saturday.
“Our strength is in our unity … we believe in the same values: family, nation, and a strong and independent Hungary.”
But thousands attending the rival opposition rally near Budapest’s Heroes Square disagreed. Their six-party alliance is led by Márki-Zay, a 49-year-old Catholic conservative, father of seven, and small-town mayor.
He seems to represent the traditional values, Orbán publicly champions.
Márki-Zay reacted angrily to suggestions by Orbán that the opposition was linked to communists who invaded and ruled Hungary following the crushed 1956 Revolution.
“I don’t know who is making deals with [former Soviet secret service KGB agent and current Russian] President Vladimir Putin,” Márki-Zay stressed in an interview with Worthy News.
He referred to several deals such as upgrading Hungary’s only nuclear energy plant and natural gas agreements between the government and Moscow.
Though smaller than the partly bused-in crowd supporting Orbán, Márki-Zay seemed pleased with the thousands that bothered to visit his rally. “We expected a crowd here, and thankfully, there was a crowd,” he noted.
Asked what he would do first as prime minister, he said: “I think freedom is something very important for us and freedom from corruption as well. So joining the [European Public Prosecutors Office] (EPPO) is of a high priority for us.”
So far, Hungary has refused to join the EPPO despite mounting concerns about the lack of transparency over billions in EU aid. Many of the tenders were awarded to friends and family of the prime minister. “There should also be an anti-corruption agency here in Hungary. That is also very important,” Márki-Zay explained.
Márki-Zay also told Worthy News he wants to launch “a constitution creating process,” concluding with a “referendum on a new constitution” in Hungary.
The constitution, often referred to as the “Fundamental Law of Hungary,” was changed under Orbán-rule despite the opposition’s objections.
Some conservatives have praised the constitution for defending Christianity and recognizing marriage as a union between men and women.
Critics say, however, argue that the government wrongly mixes Christianity with nationalism. The opposition says the government forces its nationalistic “Christian” ideology on the country and limits civil liberties, including the LGBTQ+ community.
They also claim the constitution is a government plan to cement its power, eliminate checks and balances and prevent Hungary’s euro adoption.
RETURN TO FREEDOM
Márki-Zay claims his changes will return the freedoms to Hungary that fighters in 1956 sought.
His comments come as the EU’s executive European Commission has launched infringement procedures against Hungary over the rule-of-law concerns.
Brussels cited growing government influence over media and the judiciary as areas of concern. Orbán claims his government is punished for limiting (Muslim) migration and its “Christian” views, often reflected in state media.
However, Márki-Zay said he understands the EU concerns. “Freedom is first. So that also includes freedom of the press. And the judiciary must be independent of the government, of course. So we have a lot of things to do.”
That seemed music to at least one Catholic woman attending the opposition rally. She listened to Márki-Zay, who held his maiden speech after winning the opposition primaries for the prime ministerial candidate.
“I know I can trust Márki-Zay. My child was born in a pro-life birth house run by his wife,” she told a Worthy News reporter.
However, questions remain on how the liberal and leftist parties can cooperate with the “Movement for a Better Hungary” or Jobbik.
The party raised eyebrows by its anti-Semitic and anti-Roma rhetoric but claims to have changed several years ago into a “principled, conservative and radically patriotic Christian party.”
Jobbik legislator Koloman Brenner, the deputy speaker of Parliament, denied that his current party had anything to do with antisemitism.
“We have changed,” he argued in an exchange with a Worthy News reporter. “Jobbik is the better Conservative party. We have a new party leader; he is part of Jewish origin. And I am representing the German minority.”
Brenner said, “our friends in the Green and leftist parties see this change. This bad legacy is over.”
He agrees that opinion polls still show Orbán Fidesz party slightly ahead. However, “We still have a lot of time for till April elections, and I hope we can make a big change.”
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