Prime Minister Viktor Orbán held his annual state-of-the-nation address on Friday afternoon at the Castle Garden Bazaar, where opposition party Együtt (Together) successfully heckled him and his guests despite some difficulty. According to Együtt chairman Péter Juhász, Orbán thinks of himself as an emperor. Együtt co-chair Nóra Hajdu thinks he is the enemy of Hungary. Együtt national policy council chairman Viktor Szigetvári believes the opposition is stronger than ruling party Fidesz would like to admit.
“We’re not preparing for a massive event because most people are obviously working on Friday afternoon at three o’clock and don’t have time or the opportunity to come whistle at Viktor Orbán,” said Juhász at a planning event on Thursday.
Despite that, Együtt’s Friday “protest” was already a success before it even started. Juhász, the party’s new chairman, wrote on Facebook that it seems Orbán is “extraordinarily scared”, because more than 5,000 square meters had been cordoned off around the Castle Garden Bazaar.
It is no accident that Együtt was forced to hold its heckling demonstration at two different locations. At the first — where Orbán and his people were pulling up to the Bazaar — about 100 people gathered independently of Együtt’s politicians and activists. No speeches were held there, only sustained heckling. Only a holler here and there broke through the constant noise, which was thoroughly helped along by one of the protester’s police siren.
Whenever a visibly well-dressed person went by who was by all signs attending Orbán’s address, the whistling was promptly elevated toward them, and those arriving in the fanciest of cars received the same treatment. After a while, police began ushering arriving pedestrians off to the side, even though nothing out of the ordinary had occurred: those wanting to get into the Bazaar mostly regarded the demonstrators with a smile.
Juhász was naturally in the thick of the events, but also heckling were Együtt’s 16th District representative Zoltán Vajda, Hajdu, Szigetvári and the party’s health-care policy expert Zoltán Komáromi. A whistle vendor, showing great business acumen, appeared among the demonstrators, with the Hungarian tricolor on each whistle. The enthusiastic crowd, having swollen to perhaps more than 100 people, moved as a group to a small stage at the other end of the Bazaar.
After a few minutes walk, the demonstrators reached the stage and a stand for the Momentum Movement’s anti-Olympics signature collection campaign. Several people immediately signed, while former Együtt chairman Szigetvári stepped up to the microphone. According to him, the government is stealing the country’s future and Orbán is driving Hungary into a dead end, and the solution is not far-right Jobbik because they “are going the same way into that dead end.”
Orbán doesn’t spend enough on education or health-care and is using up Hungary’s future by spending on a museum quarter, on the Paks II nuclear plant expansion and on the 2024 Olympics bid, Szigetvári said. It’s easy to waste money like this in Hungary, he continued, but things could be better if Orbán didn’t “spoil our historic future.”
Együtt is taking action, Szigetvári continued, mentioning recent successes of the party’s politicians such as opening investigations into 5th District real estate deals and stopping pollution by the Budapest Chemical Works.
“Don’t believe in the prophets of hopelessness,” he said, adding that the opposition parties, despite all their difficulties, are stronger than Fidesz would like to present. Együtt’s goal is for there to be opposition candidates in all 106 of Hungary’s voting districts for 2018 elections. They will be the ones to replace Fidesz, Szigevári told the demonstrators.
Hajdu then took the stage, getting right to the point: “This prime minister, who wants to present himself as the leader of Europe, can’t speak without a police cordon,” she said in a short but seemingly true statement. According to the Együtt co-chair, Orbán is selling the country out to the East, and asserting that whoever betrays Europe betrays Hungary as well. Orbán has no authority to do such a thing, but neither did he have authority to attemp to change the constitution after a failed referendum, to wage war on civil society or to lock up the free press, she said.
“Hungary’s enemy isn’t Europe but its own prime minister,” who is enriching the oligarchy instead of doing things to improve the country, in violation of his oath, continued Hajdu. She said Orbán’s government has done only one thing in the past six years: “They robbed the country and turned Hungarians against Hungarians.”
Taking the stage, Juhász said that five times more people were in the crowd than he’d counted on, and he had thought he would be coming to heckle on behalf of people who couldn’t come because of work. He said Együtt believes in representative democracy, and such a demonstration was the essence of that.
He continued, saying Hungary will only be happy if workers can live on their earnings, if those who study are able to improve from the things they learn, and if those who worked for a lifetime can receive the kind of retirement from which they can live without it being stolen by the reigning power.
“We’ve dedicated our lives to this, this is what we are representing in politics,” Juhász emphasized.
Heckling is important, he said, because no one can send any kind of message to Orbán, who cannot be questioned or debated. “He thinks of himself as an emperor, and I think it’s a sickness and the problem is that doctors think so too,” Juhász said, adding that he wants a diverse, open and peaceful country, something for which everyone must work together.