BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — About 2,500 supporters of Hungary’s far right Jobbik party marched on Saturday in protest of the government’s economic policies, including a series of tax hikes and other austerity measures authorities say are needed to support growth and keep the country’s budget deficit under control.
The protesters initially rallied outside the offices of the Socialist Party, which last ruled between 2002 and 2010, and later marched over to the headquarters of Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s Fidesz party.
Jobbik leader Gabor Vona said Fidesz and Socialist governments had ruined Hungary in the 22 years since the fall of communism, selling out the country to foreign banks and multinational companies and financing the “economic and political mafia” which surrounded them.
Speaking at the end of the event he called “The Hungarian March of Life,” Vona also criticized gays and the Roma minority and said the country’s Jews were “anti-Hungarian.”
Jobbik is the No. 2 opposition party in parliament, winning nearly 17 percent of the vote in the 2010 elections.
Vona and other Jobbik speakers criticized the government’s flat income tax policy, which is seen favoring the rich, and continued to criticize the EU.
“The current economic and political system has failed,” said Krisztina Morvai, a Jobbik deputy in the European Parliament. “Bad people have made bad decisions and we have had enough.”
Economy Minister Gyorgy Matolcsy this week announced a series of new taxes on banking transactions, insurance policies and phone calls, as well as higher taxes on energy and utility companies, claiming the measures would ensure that Hungary’s annual budget deficit stays under the EU limit of 3 percent of GDP.
“They’ve turned us into the country of austerity. Everything is taxed,” Vona said. “Soon we’ll have to pay taxes just for being Hungarian.”
Fidesz controls an unassailable two-thirds majority in parliament and has passed hundreds of laws since taking power in mid-2010, including a new constitution and other legislation such as that regulating the media, churches, the central bank and the judicial system which have been criticized by the European Union for limiting civic rights and centralizing power in the hands of the government.
Pressure from the EU has led to changes in some of the laws, especially regarding the independence of the central bank, as Hungary is seeking financial aid from the EU and the International Monetary Fund and the lenders have set the legal modifications as a condition for the start of official negotiations about the rescue package.
Analysts estimate Hungary will get a credit line of around €15 billion ($19.4 billion), but Orban has said the funds will be a “safety net” to reassure investors of Hungary’s creditworthiness but that there are no plans to spend any of the money.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.