An opposition rally commemorating the 60th anniversary of the 1956 Hungarian Uprising was held at Blaha Lujza square in Budapest Sunday afternoon. Some 3,000 people attended the “Wash away the shame” event organized by Szolidaritás (Solidarity) movement and a civil organization by the name of the New Hungarian Republic.
The Hungarian Socialist Party (MSZP), Democratic Coalition (DK) and Movement for a Modern Hungary (MoMA) were each represented at the event by their respective chairmen, and Dialogue for Hungary (PM) by co-chair Gergely Karácsony.
Each speaker stressed the importance of the democratic opposition parties uniting to defeat the government of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán in the 2018 general election. Discussions among the parties as to how such an alliance might function will be held next week.
“Orbán is perfecting his dictatorship”
Civil activist Zoltán Vajda, one of the organizers of the event, insisted it is essential for all who oppose the Orbán government to act in solidarity with the single common aim of electing a new government in 2018.
“There are only 500 days until the 2018 election and we are still thinking of who, with who, for what and why we should stand together, and why the other is unacceptable. We must stop this craziness,” Vajda said to cheers from the crowd. “We must first put an end to Fidesz’s lying manipulation. Those standing up against the Orbán system are not left wingers. Orbán’s opposition is not left wing. Everyone in Hungary is against the Orbán system, regardless of their worldview, who is tired of them, not yet killing journalists but already killing newspapers,” said the civil activist, referring to the sudden “suspension” two weeks earlier of main opposition newspaper Népszabadság and its digital edition, nol.hu.
Deriding parliament as “a circus-like ornament,” Vajda criticized the Orbán government for not providing a basic standard of education for those living in small towns, but instead providing “mind-rotting propaganda with public money.” He accused Central Bank governor György Matolcsy of being a “real-estate speculator” who uses public money to support his lover.
“Only three things interest Orbán: power, money and football,” Vajda said.
He said those opposing the Orbán government are the “new unity” and not the 40 percent of the electorate who voted against so-called mandatory EU refugee settlement quotas in the October 2 referendum. He called “delusional” the notion that Orbán is dismantling democracy because “it has already happened.”
“Orbán is perfecting his dictatorship. We are all standing up against this dictator.”
Vajda implored the leaders of the opposition parties as well as civil society to recognize their “common, singular goal” of getting rid of Orbán, and to put aside party rivalries to realize this. Those united in this aim don’t necessarily have to always agree with each other but it is essential that they trust each other, he said.
“The rear-end of Europe”
Poet and writer Krisztina Tóth spoke about the direction the country is moving under Orbán’s leadership, saying she had hoped the “grey, sad place where I spent my childhood” would become a “happy, open country.”
“When the Berlin Wall came down, for just a moment we were the heart of Europe,” Tóth said. “Then 25 years passed and we became the rear-end of Europe. If we don’t stick together, we’ll shrink into a little angry red spot on Europe’s rear-end,” she said, alluding to one of Matolcsy’s many outlandish comments. “Is that what we want?” she asked the crowd. “I’m a writer and a woman. I don’t want to live in the kind of country where a woman’s job is reproduction and cooking.”
“Do you remember in 2010 when they stole the pension funds?” Tóth continued. “Do you remember October of 2014 when they wanted to introduce an internet tax? Do you remember the living memorial? Do you remember the voice of the students and teachers from April of 2015? Do you remember March of this year? Yes, I am here and I’m standing here too. I will be here on every occasion because I teach, and I feel responsible for my pupils. They’re going to live in this country. We can’t allow them to be taught false historical nostalgia. We can’t let them turn against their fellow human beings. We can’t let them turn toward anger and hatred. I will be here because I am a mother, and I fear for my children for the racist hatred and the ruling stupidity. I’m a mother and don’t want my children to want to leave here as adults.”
“We believe in democracy”
MSZP chairman Gyula Molnár said it is hard for him to believe that the occasion of October 23 is being used to plea for the same things that sounded in the streets 60 years ago: the end of oppression, free radio, freedom of the press and of expression, and the end to Russian influence over Hungary.
The former mayor of Budapest’s District 11 said the Orbán government has tried to write then-prime minister Imre Nagy out of the history of the 1956 Uprising.
“We can say for sure that today, these are those who are much more the heirs of (post-war Stalinist Hungarian dictator) Mátyás Rákosi than of Imre Nagy,” he said. “Imre Nagy’s most important thought and message could be the leading idea for this protest, which is that dictatorship shouldn’t be reformed, it should be eliminated.”
Molnár also spoke about the importance of the opposition uniting to overcome the Orbán government in 2018.
“In the coming time period, we are going to work on this: those who want a change, who want to do something, civil and labor unions, radical democrats and we, the largest opposition party, who knows exactly what our political task and responsibility is, should work together so that 2018 will be the year of change, and it should,” he said.
Molnár told the crowd that while the opposition is diverse and might not always agree, they have a single purpose, which is changing the government. He urged supporters to work on convincing people to vote for change in 2018, and this way they will win power.
“In the year and half before the events of 1956 the power didn’t believe that it could be replaced,” Molnár said. “Today’s power doesn’t believe it either. We, however, believe it. We believe in democracy, in free elections, and we believe in the wisdom of the people not to repeat the events of 60 years ago or those of 10 years ago either.”
“Whoever is not against Orbán is with him”
DK chairman and former Socialist prime minister Ferenc Gyurcsány, seen here attending the event with his wife, also spoke about the need to unite the opposition parties going into 2018, and emphasized the need to win over voters who might have been Fidesz supporters in the past.
“We don’t need to win so that it will be good for us,” he said. “We need to win to elevate our country, so that everyone can look at this country as their home. We need to win so that there aren’t millions who feel that this isn’t their home.”
Gyurcsány acknowledged that there are differences among democrats and members of the left wing, but said they must work together for a “historic turn” by changing the system.
“We have to invite everyone to the table that is honest and that wants the same thing that we do, and we the democrats cannot permit for ourselves the world of the selfish,” he said. “Whoever is not against Orbán is with him, whatever they think and whatever they do.”
“We only have to bear each other for 500 days”
MoMA chairman Lajos Bokros asked voters to put aside their differences and put their trust in the united opposition for the next 500 days leading up to the 2018 election.
“The opposition parties separately have no chance to replace Fidesz,” Bokros said. “It is impossible in the distorted, consciously tainted election system. It is an illusion to think that an opposition can win by itself.”
Bokros said there are many people who hate Ferenc Gyurcsány more than they hate Orbán, and this is why some opposition parties are unwilling to work with Gyurcsány’s DK party. Bokros acknowledged that others dislike himself because of his economic policies during his tenure as Hungary’s finance minister in the mid-1990s. Many in Hungary are waiting for “the messiah,” he said, “but we can know for sure that the messiah is not coming.
“I am announcing the 500-day program. Everyone who thinks that Orbán’s system is a nefarious autocracy that should be ended as soon as possible should without exception join a temporary, 500-day authorized democratic opposition organization. A kind of election organization which just asks 500 days to eradicate this nefarious system and restores the constitutional rule of law and democracy in Hungary.”
Bokros called on civil organizations and “what remains of democratic press” to join the opposition parties in the new alliance. Everyone is in the alliance, he said, who agrees on one important thing, which is “saying no to Fidesz and no to Viktor Orbán.”
“Don’t be afraid, we only have to bear each other for 500 days,” he said. “We have to bear for 500 days that Gyurcsány can have a say. We have to bear for 500 days that Bokros is back in again. We have to bear for 500 days that the Socialists are participating in the restoration of democracy. Democracy can be restored in 500 days.”
Building a new republic
PM chairman and Zugló mayor Gergely Karácsony also spoke about the need for unity and his willingness to work with other opposition parties. However, he brought the violent events of October 23, 2006 to the forefront of his statements, blaming much of the opposition’s inability to gain the support of the center-right democrats on the police repression of those demonstrating against the then-Socialist government of Ferenc Gyurcsány.
“I can’t speak for anyone else but I say for myself that I am infinitely sorry that this happened,” he said of the protests of 2006. Karácsony also acknowledged that there was corruption in the Socialist government before Fidesz, and that the left-wing politicians “were not honest enough.”
While these statements set himself and his party apart from MSZP and the rest of the potential coalition to some degree, he still made sharp criticisms of the Orbán government and appealed to all Hungarian democrats to cooperate in removing it.
“They stole our freedom so they could steal our money,” he said. “And they want to steal our spirit too. Our home today is one of the world’s most unhappy countries. We hate ourselves, we hate each other, we hate almost everything, and they are always thinking up new things for us to hate.”
Karácsony said Orbán used the refugee crisis to convince Hungarians to hate the European Union, and divided the country by suggesting that whoever is not with him is not Hungarian.
The first step in building a new republic and inciting a new system change is reaching an agreement on cooperation among the opposition powers, he said.
“I’m here on this stage to make it clear to everyone that we see a partner in everyone who wants to free our country from this government. Next week the negotiations will really start which can lead us out of this nightmare.”
Szolidaritás chairman Sándor Székely closed the event by calling for unity of purpose in defeating the Orbán regime and political activism on the part of democrats and their supporters.
“Orbán can be defeated but there is much work to be done,” he said.