Better World Order vs. Commemoration: competing Budapest rallies set for Trump’s Inauguration Day

January 19, 2017

On the day of Donald Trump’s inauguration as the 45th president of the United States in Washington, DC, two competing rallies will take place on Budapest’s Szabadság square, one in support of president-elect Trump and the other to thank President Barack Obama for his eight years in office. The square is home to the US Embassy.

The rally in support of the president-elect is named “Better World Order — Inauguration Party.” Hungarian Trump supporters will gather near the square’s Ronald Reagan statue. Speakers will include Fidesz publicist Zsolt Bayer, a long-time friend of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, and András Bencsik, editor of the far-right Magyar Demokrata newspaper, who along with Bayer was an organizer of the so-called Peace Marches, a series of nationalist pro-Fidesz demonstrations in 2012. Both were also recipients last year of Hungary’s third-highest state honor, the Knight’s Cross of the Order of Merit.

The theme of “Better World Order” was chosen for the rally because under the new American administration “when it comes to migration, political correctness […] when someone stands up for his nation he won’t be called a Nazi or a fascist, he won’t be excluded,” Ákos Szilágyi, a producer for Hungarian TV in New York and organizer of the pro-Trump inauguration event, told the Budapest Beacon.

Hungarians are celebrating Trump’s victory because “we want a Europe of nation-states to endure,” Szilágyi explained. “Trump thinks the way we do about the migration issue,” he added.

On the other side of the square, a very different mood will prevail as a group of Americans mark the end of President Obama’s term in an event publicized as a “Thank You Gathering/Commemoration/Candlelight Vigil.”

“We wanted to thank Obama for his eight years of wonderful service, given what is coming up. We really do appreciate what he did for America,” said Marylin Ball-Brown, Hungary chair of Democrats Abroad, the group organizing tomorrow’s vigil.

“I’m worried about pretty much everything that will happen with foreign relations,” she said. “It takes a very strong, intelligent, diplomatic person in that position to handle world affairs, and I’m not sure that we have that. We’ve seen what Donald Trump’s done in the primaries and leading up to the elections, and the type of involvement he’s had with foreign governments, and it’s very disconcerting.”

Democrats Abroad was first to ask Hungarian police for a permit to hold an event on Szabadság square. According to Ball-Brown, the police then asked her organization whether they would be “willing to do a joint group demonstration” with the pro-Trump group. When Democrats Abroad declined, it was decided that the parallel events would take place on opposite ends of the square.

“We do not plan on having any interaction with that group,” Ball-Brown said.

Trump’s election has not only inspired widespread debate across Hungarian society, but also a flurry of political activity. Besides the two events on Inauguration Day, in a nod to the large-scale women’s march set for Washington, DC, a Women’s March on Budapest is planned for Saturday.

Like many others across Central and Eastern Europe, Hungarians from different parts of the political spectrum are watching developments in Washington closely and trying to assess how the new administration will impact Hungary’s own political dynamics.