By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News reporting from Budapest, Hungary
BUDAPEST (Worthy News) – Hungary’s embattled prime minister fled Budapest on Sunday as tens of thousands of protestors condemned his perceived autocratic policies and falling living standards, critics said.
Instead, Viktor Orbán gave his annual October 23 speech commemorating Hungary’s 1956 Revolution against Soviet rule in Zalaegerszeg, 220 kilometers (137 miles) southwest of the capital.
Orbán denied he was fleeing criticism, saying he wanted to open a new center commemorating the late Cardinal József Mindszenty, who played a vital role in the 1956 battle for freedom.
The prime minister views Mindszenty as a
symbol of uncompromising opposition to fascism and communism in Hungary.
During World War Two, the cardinal was jailed by Hungary’s pro-Nazi Arrow Cross regime, and after the war, he was tortured and given a life sentence for opposing communist persecution.
Following eight years in prison, Mindszenty was freed in the 1956 Revolution and granted political asylum by the United States embassy in Budapest, where he lived for fifteen years.
He was finally allowed to leave the country in 1971 and died in exile in 1975 in Vienna, Austria.
Addressing the inauguration of the new visitors’ center presenting the life of Mindszenty, Orbán lashed out at the West for allegedly betraying his nation for a second time.
“In 1956, we had learned that joining our forces was the only way to come through hard times. Therefore, we should not worry about those who are shooting at Hungary from the shadows or the heights of Brussels,” he said, referring to the European Union. “They will end up where their predecessors did,” Orbán added without elaborating.
Orbán condemned EU sanctions against Russia prompting opposition parties to say that 1956 fighters would have been ashamed that the prime minister had turned Hungary to Moscow.
On Sunday, opposition supporters attached a sheet with painted-blooded hands to the fence surrounding the Russian embassy near the Worthy News bureau. “Let this be a warning sign to the current power holders. The truth can be hidden for a while, but the desire for the truth [and freedom] can never be defeated,” said Ferenc Gelencsér, president of the Momentum party, standing near the embassy.
Orbán has recently criticized the opposition for allegedly working against Hungary’s interests and defended energy deals with Russia.
He also condemned the EU for withholding billions of euros in aid amid concerns over the perceived lack of democracy, the rule of law, and corruption in Hungary.
The prime minister, re-elected for a fourth consecutive term in April, said Sunday that next year would pose challenges with the war in neighboring Ukraine. “A war in the east and an economic crisis in the West,” Orban told supporters in Zalaegerszeg.
Yet, the Hungarian leader stressed that “since Hungary had a conservative government, the country has emerged stronger from every crisis than it was before entering it.”
He spoke amid concerns that Hungary is rapidly becoming the EU’s inflation champion, with an annual inflation rate topping 20 percent.
However, “We are also prepared now; we will preserve the stability of the country, everyone will have a job, and families will not be left on their own,” Orbán said.
He pledged to preserve economic stability and maintain a cap on household energy bills for average users despite the EU sliding into an “economic crisis.”
Back in Budapest, thousands expressed their doubts with Hungarians, including teachers and students marching across a bridge over the Danube river.
They carried banners like “Orban get lost” and “No teachers, no future.” Protestors said his government had let teachers down by giving them meager salaries and intervening in education.
“This runaway inflation… we cannot save up at all anymore, simply we cannot make ends meet as prices are soaring,” said Gyongyi Bereczky, a protesting mail carrier.