# ...and at MTVA's headquarters

A few days before the demonstration at MTVA opposition parties disrupted a session of parliament to protest the new overtime regulations eventually passed by the governing parties. Bertalan Tóth, the Socialist Party's leader, said that when Fidesz won a two-thirds majority last April for a third time, it was time to conclude that the opposition's parliamentary actions had been ineffective, and this is why they had decided to disrupt the plenary session. "This fight must go on until the power holders understand that the people do not want repression," he said.

Lajos Kepli, a Jobbik MP, said one big positive was that opposition forces were joining together as never before. Sándor Székely, a Democratic Coalition lawmaker, told the crowd not to allow Fidesz "to set up unlawful courts".

Tímea Szabó, co-leader of the Párbeszéd party, vowed to continue protesting in front of the public media headquarters until their demands are met and their petition is read out. She said it had been unprecedented since the 1990 change in political system for MPs to be removed by force from a public building. Szabó referred to the ejection of MPs Bernadett Szél, Ákos Hadházy and László Varju. The representatives argued that as MPs they have a right to freely access any public institution, while the government said that while they are allowed to do so, they do not have the right to disrupt an institution’s operations. The debate about whether the actions of the security staff had been lawful has been ongoing since.

Szél said violence had "gone to the next level" and she called for the interior minister to be sacked. She insisted that Prime Minister Viktor Orbán was also ultimately responsible for the manhandling of parliamentarians in a public institution. Ákos Hadházy told the crowd that with their demand for an independent media, the people had landed a blow to the holders of power.

András Fekete-Győr, the leader of the Momentum Movement, said "the system built since 2010" was trammeling the people, ignoring their opinions and laughing in their faces. Tamás Székely, deputy head of the Federation of Hungarian Trade Unions, vowed to launch strikes nationwide if President János Áder signed the "slave law" on extending overtime. Áder has signed the law, and forces of the opposition are now planning to convince various unions to join in for a nationwide strike.

They are demanding the abandonment of the amendment to the labour code and the new administrative court system, calling for Hungary's accession to the European Public Prosecutor's Office and for the creation of an independent public media.


No one can be allowed to engage in violence: Orbán

No one can be allowed to engage in violence, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said in an interview after the beginning of the anti-government demonstrations. Orbán said a clear line must be drawn between the expression of one's political views and vandalism. The most aggressive and most active of those protesting the recent amendment to the labour code are on the payroll of US financier George Soros, he said, and the demonstrations were also in part linked to international networks. The prime minister said he saw traces of this internationally, arguing that "right-wing governments have come under fire everywhere".

Orbán criticised the damage caused by protesters in December on Kossuth Square, saying it was "a serious thing in legal terms" to throw smoke bombs at police. "It's never well-intentioned people throwing smoke bombs," he said, noting that the point of smoke bombs was to obscure vision. Commenting on injuries sustained by police at the demonstrations, Orbán noted that in the 2006 clashes between protesters and police, peaceful demonstrators were charged by mounted police.

He said he had asked the interior minister to make sure that police respond "firmly but patiently" to protesters' actions. "And they managed to do just that," he said, reaffirming the government's support for the police force. Orbán said he believed it has become clear that the amendment to the labour code was "merely an excuse", arguing that this was not the first time the opposition was "screaming 'end of the world'".


Police attacker given prison, suspended
A protester in the first anti-government demonstration, who attacked police officers after the event, has been sentenced to one year imprisonment, suspended for four years, the municipal court said. According to the statement, the defendant had been drunk and attempted to hit two police officers. The defendant, who had multiple entries on his record, pleaded guilty and accepted the sentence.


Concerning parliament's approval of the amendment amid the opposition's attempts to obstruct proceedings, Orbán said the ruling parties could not afford to stand down during the session. He said the opposition's acts of sitting in his chair and trying to block his vote button even had legal implications. "But lawmaking cannot be obstructed with scandal when you have committed people like us on the other side, and we weren't engaging in violence."


Protest at presidential palace

Two days before Christmas opposition parties and civil groups staged a demonstration in front of the presidential palace in Budapest's Castle District. The protest was held under the motto "Shame on you, János!" after Áder signed the new law under which the maximum of overtime work could be raised and another one introducing public administration courts.

Anna Donáth, deputy head of the Momentum movement, welcomed that protests are held "not only in Budapest but in other cities, moreover, across Europe" against the Hungarian government's policies. "Let 2019 be a year for resistance," she added.

Socialist board member Balázs Bárány said people have had enough of the government's propaganda depicting protesters as "Soros-agents and anti-Christians", and added that the government "had better get used to a different style of opposition politics from now on".

Tamás Szűcs, head of teachers' union PDSZ, said "there cannot be another agenda for January than to stop the country".

Csaba Gyüre, deputy leader of conservative Jobbik, said "we will not be slaves in our own country". He demanded that the president should be directly elected rather than by parliament.

# Demonstration in January. The sign reads "we protest the slave law".


Unions, opposition call for nationwide demonstrations

In early January the opposition parties called for further protests, another change of regime and building a new republic, while trade unions announced nationwide demonstrations for 19 January.

Laszlo Kordas, head of the union confederation MaSzSz, said during an anti-government demonstration that they would present a list of demands to Orbán and give five days to the government to set up a negotiating committee. If the government fails to do so by deadline, the unions will hold a nationwide warning strike, and protesters will block roads and bridges, he said. The trade unions are prepared for "a militant period" because the government has "made a deal with capitalists" and "chose to side with heinous profit-hunters", he said.

The list of demands submitted to the prime minister demanded the withdrawal of labour code amendments, changes to the strike law, fair wages and a flexible pension system.

The demonstration will start at 3pm, to avoid disrupting students' school entrance exams, he said. So far, sympathisers in 140 communities have signalled they are ready to support unions' goals in some form, be it demonstrating or closing down roads, he added. Fielding a question about the possible country-wide strike, Kordas said workers' willingness to strike must be gauged before any preparations can be made. Unions want to stage the strike within the bounds of the law, he added.


Strike has no public support: political scientist

There is no "mood for striking" in Hungary and support for protests has not grown in the past few weeks, political scientist Zoltan Kiszelly told public current affairs channel M1. "The trade union bubble will be the first to burst" as people do not back their demands, he said. Kiszelly said that by 2013, the country had left behind the debt trap which was a legacy of successive left-liberal governments. "Life has become gradually easier since," he said, adding that people on middle and lower incomes now felt more financially secure. The opposition parties were trying to appropriate the demands of trade unions for their own political purposes. Meanwhile, movements launched by "fake NGOs" and "self-styled politicians" have also appeared, he added.


Damage to Parliament in 'millions'
The damage caused to Parliament and adjacent Kossuth Square in recent protests adds up to "millions of forints", parliament's press chief said. Zoltán Szilágyi said they had no exact figure because the damage was still being assessed, but two stained-glass and several plain windows had been smashed, the stairs to the main entrance had been sprayed with paint, while the bronze lion figures and candelabra on either side of the entrance were tainted with paint and eggs. "Parliament's wall also has innumerable spots of paint or eggs, as well as burn marks," he said, adding that "the mast of the flag of the nation was also spray-painted". Szilágyi said the protesters had dismantled the fence around the nation's Christmas tree in Kossuth Square, constructed of sledges meant to be given to needy children; 22 sledges were missing and the tree's lights were damaged.


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