November 9, 2014 / 9:14 PM / 5 years ago

Hungarians protest against corruption, want tax chief sacked

BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Thousands of Hungarians demonstrated against alleged corruption at the country’s tax authority and for wider democratic freedoms in Budapest on Sunday in the latest protest to rock the country’s politics.

A woman carries a placard with the likeness of Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban as thousands of Hungarians protest against perceived corruption at the country's tax authority and lack of wider democratic freedoms, in Budapest, November 9, 2014. REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo

The protests against the populist centre-right government, notably against a planned tax on the Internet, show that despite a big majority in parliament, Prime Minister Viktor Orban faces increasingly vocal opposition from civil society.

Orban has raised eyebrows among Western partners, including the United States and the European Union, for policies that have penalized big businesses, limited democratic freedoms and - his critics say - pulled Hungary closer into the Kremlin’s orbit.

The Sunday rally demanded the dismissal of tax chief Ildiko Vida, who admitted earlier this week she was one of several people - including government officials - who were barred entry from the United States on charges of corruption. She denied any wrongdoing.

About 100,000 Hungarians rallied on Oct 28 to protest against a planned tax on Internet data traffic and the broader course of Orban’s government they saw as undermining democracy and relations with European Union peers.

The crowd on Sunday marched through central Budapest and held up signs depicting the prime minister that read: “You stink to high heavens!”, a Titanic cutout emblazoned with his Fidesz party’s name and one with a pun on the tax chief: “Vida Loca!”

The protesters, now as before, said they were marching for more than the specific issues the organizers originally called them out to oppose. They oppose the entire government and want it gone, they said.

“Enough is enough, said Istvan Kramer. 45. “They are absolutely unscrupulous while we are oppressed and told to shut up.”

“We don’t want to pay taxes in a corrupt country,” said Pirosha Hahn, 65. “What hurts me most is that my kids need to leave the country to find a job that pays enough to raise a family on.”

“The corruption that works in this country is the worst because it all begins with the higher-ups, the government,” said 30 year-old Dia Szenasi, who arrived with a banner reading: “All corrupted here”.

Reporting by Krisztina Fenyo and Marton Dunai; Editing by Tom Heneghan

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