Thousands march in Budapest against corruption

March 8, 2015

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“Many believe there is some theoretical underpinnings to Orbán.  But there is only one.  That I lose.  Period.” – Protest organizer and Budapest District 5 assemblyman, Péter Juhász (Together)

Several thousand protesters marched through the streets of Budapest today against official corruption. Protest organizer, Budapest District 5 assemblyman Péter Juhász, told protesters to devote the next twenty days to uncovering corruption in their immediate vicinity “then let’s organize a country-wide protest.”  A number of civil and political opposition leaders addressed demonstrators before and after the march.

The “Against the Government of Corruption” demonstration started promptly at 4 pm with several thousand demonstrators gathering in Erzsébet square.  By way of introduction Juhász asked the demonstrators to let the people know why they are demonstrating by chanting “They stole here, too!”, “Shame on you, you sold your country!” and “Band of thieves!” during the march to the National Investigation Office in Aradi street.

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The first speaker was independent member of parliament Zsuzsa Szelényi who, like Juhász, is a member of the opposition political party Juhász founded in 2012 with trade-union based Szolidaritás leader Peter Kónya and former caretaker prime minister Gordon Bajnai.

“The previous governments, including the Socialists, were all corrupt,” said the independent MP, calling Prime Minister Viktor Orbán “the most corrupt prime minister since the system change” of 1989.  “Today there aren’t Nokia boxes but laws filled with corruption,” said Szelényi, referring to the manner in which funds embezzled from city-owned companies were allegedly delivered to former deputy city mayor Miklos Hagyó, who has been standing trial for corruption but has yet to be convicted.  Szelényi believes civil leaders, journalists and politicians are working to uncover corruption and to prevent corrupt offices from “pushing the people’s heads under water.”

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Anti-corruption protester with photograph of former District 5 mayor Antal Rogán.

Dialogue for Hungary (PM) politician Rebeka Szabó, who served as an MP between 2010 and 2014, told protesters that the following day, Monday, would mark the 25th anniversary of concluding an agreement providing for the withdrawal of Soviet troops, but that the country is “once again drowning.”   She raised the subject of the corrupt distribution of state lands, which she says were given to “dilettante Fidesz strawmen.”  “They took the Kishantos organic farm and the ground from András Váradi as well, who took up the fight with Lőrinc Mészáros,” she said, referring to the shepherd who grazed his flock of sheep on state lands before they were awarded to a company owned by the mayor of Orbán’s home town, Felcsút.  The PM politician said measures needed to be taken in the interest of transparency as they had in the case of Budapest District 14 (Zugló) whose district government, led by PM politician Gergely Karacsony, has given the people both social security and taken up the fight against corruption.

Zoltán Nagy, a member of the Zala county assembly, said the picturesque Lake Balaton town of Keszthely had also become “the playground of the corrupt government.”  He said the Prime Minister’s son-in-law, István Tiborcz, obtained ownership of the town’s port without a public tender being held.  “They want all the ground and water for themselves,” said the DK politician, adding that “in the mafia, family is sacred.”

In his speech he explained that the local government of Keszthely had provided him with documents regarding the “legal theft” of the town’s port on the condition he not show it to anyone because “it would endanger the local government’s legal operations.”   He told the crowd that in this way Ráhel Orbán could also “stand on her own two feet while motoring around Balaton on her yacht”, a reference to the Prime Minister’s daughter’s earlier statement that she and her husband were financially independent of her father and Hungarian taxpayers.

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After Nagy had concluded his speech, protesters marched to the National Investigation Office where former SZDSZ politician Imre Mécs and former tax inspector-turned-whistleblower András Horváth were present.  During the march the crowd tried to chant protest slogans but this was not always successful.  According to Abcug’s correspondent the crowd was in an “anaemic, Sunday afternoon mood.”

Meanwhile the organizers handed out stickers with the text “Fidesz hasn’t stolen this yet!  Get rid of the Corrupt Government before it does!”  They told demonstrators that they should attach the stickers to places the government has yet to get its hands on.

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At the National Investigation Office the crowd heard from Mrs. Katalin Szabó on behalf of the “tobacco victims”.  She said it was not enough that the nationalization of tobacco retailing had taken shops away from retailers.   It is soon to be followed by the “tobacco wholesaling boondoggle” in which rumor has it two companies are to win the right to supply national tobacco stores with tobacco products.

Dr. Éva Ivanics, a former deputy colonel in the financial police, was the next to speak.  She said the National Investigation Office is supposed to combat corruption, except that it is rejecting more and more such complaints and nipping more and more investigations in the bud.  “In practice investigators initiate nothing after receiving the complaint,” she said. “They simply forward the complaint here and there, which the authority then evaluates and rejects. What kind of fight against corruption is this?”

Finally, Juhász addressed the crowd using a megaphone.  “I’m glad we could demonstrate together. Here are DK and PM members also.  We invited LMP as well but they didn’t come” said Juhász, referring to liberal party Politics Can Be Different.

He told the crowd that the ruling party had even stolen the state, which is why the National Inspection Office “wrote down lies”, and why even Attorney General Péter Polt acknowledged that since he has been the head of the prosecutor’s office there have been fewer corruption cases. “Viktor Orbán behaves like a lowlife gamble in some underpass who is trying to impress us with his game of cups and balls, while he takes the money” said the protest organizer, adding that “many believe there is some theoretical underpinnings to Orbán. But there is only one. That I lose.  Period.”

“We will stop the government of corruption,” said Juhasz, who also told the crowd that the following day he would begin organizing a national anti-corruption demonstration for March 28 with the involvement of opposition parties and civil organizations. “Over the next 20 days everybody should compile a list of corrupt matters in their immediate vicinity,” he asked.