Thousands of Hungarians have marched across central Budapest in a show of support for the European Union, protesting against what a new political movement sees as a creeping rise in Russian influence under prime minister Viktor Orbán.
The rally follows a series of major demonstrations in Budapest in recent weeks, triggered by a new law that would drive out of Hungary a top university founded by US financier George Soros.
Momentum, an upstart political movement that called for Monday’s rally dubbed “We belong to Europe,” announced it would run at a parliamentary election next April.
“Healthcare, education, [public] transportation are failing,” András Fekete-Győr, the Momentum leader, told demonstrators. “We struggle to make things work every day.”
Fekete-Győr added that the group would unveil its election manifesto in October.
The group gained national prominence with a referendum campaign that torpedoed Orbán’s bid for Budapest to host the 2024 Summer Olympics.
Orbán, a former critic of Moscow, changed tack after returning to power in a 2010 landslide. In a key speech, he called for transforming Hungary into an “illiberal state,” citing Russia and Turkey as templates for success.
He still holds a firm lead in opinion polls. But on Saturday he told leaders of his centre-right EU political group he would comply with demands from Brussels to change measures branded an attack on academic freedom.
“Viktor Orbán’s performance at the European parliament has shown that it is not only Hungarians who are tired of Orbán and his Fidesz party,” said Daniel Kiss, a 23-year-old university student, who carried EU flags at the rally with his girlfriend.
“He blasts the EU, but at the same time we need European money to stay afloat,” he said. “We have had enough.”
Source/More: The Guardian