Supporters of civil groups and the “democratic opposition parties” gathered in front of the State Opera House on Monday evening to demand the withdrawal of Hungary’s new constitution, which went into effect on January 1, and of the two-thirds laws approved during the current government’s term.
The demonstration preceded a gala performance celebrating the new constitution in the presence of senior government officials and state dignitaries, including President Pal Schmitt and Prime Minister Viktor Orban.
Addressing the crowd of tens of thousands, Hungarian Solidarity Movement leader Peter Konya welcomed the “long-absent cooperation between civil groups and parties of the democratic opposition”.
Konya suggested that the gala was a “burial feast of the republic, the rule of law and democracy”, and called the prime minister “the helmsman of the Titanic” and the protesting crowd the iceberg.
“There is no truth where laws are passed forcefully, without consultations, where people live in fear and where people are not equal,” Methodist pastor Gabor Ivanyi told the crowd. Hungary is a part of Europe and wants to stay like that, he added.
“The Opera is now a place for hypocrisy while the street is dominated by constitutional virtues,” former ombudsman Laszlo Majtenyi told the crowd.
Majtenyi called on the government to withdraw the constitution and all “restrictive cardinal laws” before stepping down.
The crowd chanted “down with Orban” and “dictator”.
The civil-initiated demonstration was attended by several politicians of the opposition Socialists and the green party LMP as well as MEP Lajos Bokros and ex-premier Ferenc Gyurcsany, head of the ex-Socialist splinter group Democratic Coalition.
In the meantime, hundreds of counter-demonstrators gathered in an adjacent street upon a call on an extreme-right news website and the New Hungarian Guard, which many consider the successor to the banned paramilitary Hungarian Guard.
There were verbal clashes between the two groups but no major conflicts were reported.