Budapest protests: Resistance is futile - and yet.
I visited Budapest in May 2018, a month after covering Viktor Orbán’s landslide win in parliamentary elections. Back for a third term, the man dubbed Europe’s new strongman had succeeded in convincing voters they needed saving from migrants, George Soros and Brussels.
His supporters are jubilant that Hungary has been put back on the map. His detractors, it seems, might as well be whistling in the wind. But, whistle they will, in sun, rain and, on this occasion, a demo coinciding with parliament’s opening session, a rather unseasonal bout of hail.
All pics © Lorraine Mallinder
A pun on ghostbusters, translated as Szellemírtòk. Szellem = ghost. But Szellemisèg (which I couldn’t actually find on Google translate) = what’s inside the mind, how you think. Irtok = exterminators. The guy in the middle of the banner is Orbán.
European flags a gogo at this demo. For many, the current situation is a battle between Western-style liberal values and the model of so-called “illiberal democracy” advanced by Orbán, which some believe leans in the direction of Putin’s Russia.
Guys from Pest
Two journalists from pro-government website Pesti Srácok, which translates as “Guys from Pest” (Pest being the eastern part of Budapest). Largely staffed by youngsters, the site has an alt-right vibe – Hungarian-style. George Soros not welcome here. Ditto the liberal elites of Brussels. But staff tell me they are happy to be in the EU which, they believe, is already being changed from within by Orbán …
A day after the election, Hungary was hit by shock news that one of its most prestigious legacy newspapers was being shut down. Critical of the Orbán régime, Magyar Nemzet had been starved of government advertising – a major component of media funding here – for over two years. Private advertisers kept their distance too, fearful of reprisals meted out via the tax authorities. After the closure, staff started their own newspaper: Magyar Hang – or Hungarian Voice.
Being a Scot, I couldn’t resist … Plus he reminded me of Iggy Pop.
Apparently not unusual in May, a violent hailstorm. It came from nowhere, battering the crowds with ice pellets and rain. Anti-Orbán protesters scattered, prompting some pro-government news to report that they couldn’t be that serious if they were put off by a spot of bad weather …
… But many stuck around. Up to then, the demo had been fairly subdued. Soon after the hail abated, people started emerging from the awnings on Kossuth Square, soaked but seemingly energised.
In a highly-charged atmosphere of anger and defiance, protesters began to advance on police guarding Parliament, waving flags, whistling and shouting.
This woman shouts “Diktátor!”
Whistling the odds
A couple of minutes earlier, this guy had been shouting at police who filmed the crowds. “We see you!” he signalled, two fingers to his eyes.
“Facing the faceless”
Police looked on with a mixture of expressions: hostile, bemused, discomfited. The next day, on pro-government website Pesti Srácok, one was quoted as saying: “We are the ones who are here to face the faceless masses.”
This pic seems to say it all.