January 2, 2015 / 9:21 PM / 5 years ago

Hungarian protesters keep up pressure on government

People hold flags and banners during an anti-government protest called by civil groups in Budapest January 2, 2015. REUTERS/Laszlo Balogh

BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Thousands of Hungarians staged an anti-government protest on Friday, maintaining pressure on Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s centre-right administration which has lost about a third of its popular support since October.

Orban’s Fidesz party won a new term with a two-thirds majority in April but its support has waned in the last few months as civic groups organised rallies against its policies, forcing Orban to back down from a plan to tax Internet traffic.

Despite a 10 percentage point drop in support, according to the latest opinion poll by Szazadveg, Fidesz’ 25 percent backing still eclipses that of the far-right Jobbik which has 14 percent and the Socialists with 11 percent.

Protesters on Friday said they were demonstrating for democracy and against poverty and accused the government of undermining democratic checks and balances, something it denies.

“We feel that democracy has suffered a very serious blow,” said teacher Zsuzsa Veress, at the rally in the drizzling rain in the centre of Budapest.

The groups that have organised the rallies have kept their distance from the unpopular opposition parties. There were no party symbols on display at Friday’s rally, called by the MostMi! (“Endow!) movement, and the typical banner was the European Union’s starred blue flag.

One protester, Mire Gyongyosi, a haulage entrepreneur in his 40s, said he wanted the civic groups to become an organised force.

“I would like them to get into parliament independently from the other parties, and then we would have people there whom the country accepts because they are not yet tainted and have not sullied themselves in the past decades,” he said.

Reporting by Sandor Peto and Krisztina Fenyo; Editing by Robin Pomeroy

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