Hungary: An Eventful Celebration of the National Holiday

Last week, Hungary celebrated the 164th anniversary of the 1848 Revolution. On March 15, 2012, the opposition elected a rapper as the ‘alternative president’ – while the prime minister compared the country to a frog jumping out of a pot of hot water at the very last moment – and a group of far-right protesters broke into the office of the International Monetary Fund. On March 16, a techno party was held at Budapest's Heroes’ Square. On March 17, new members of the Hungarian National Guard took their oath at the same location.

Before the national holiday of March 15, the Hungarian media devoted some coverage to the news of the Polish and French supporters coming to attend the demonstrations. Véleményvezér blog posted [hu] about this with the title, “March 15: thanks but we don't want to import protesters!”:

[…] It looks like the Hungarian national holiday's commemorations will turn into real international events. Gazeta Polska, a right-wing weekly, reports under the title of “A Long Voyage to Hungary” that several thousands Poles are traveling to Hungary to rally for Viktor Orbán. French left-wing intellectuals have published a public invitation that says it's a cause of conscience to come to Hungary and attend the Milla protest against the ‘nationalist’ Fidesz government. […]

Polish supporters of Jaroslaw Kaczinsky's party, the PiS, have arrived in Hungary to support the Hungarian PM Viktor Orbán on the National Day. Photo by DAVID FERENCZY, copyright © Demotix (15/03/12).

Polish supporters of Jaroslaw Kaczinsky's party, the PiS, have arrived in Hungary to support the Hungarian PM Viktor Orbán on the National Day. Photo by DAVID FERENCZY, copyright © Demotix (15/03/12).

Guest representatives of the two nations attended the day's two largest events. The Poles mainly attended the official governmental celebrations and the main event in the afternoon of March 15, where Prime Minister Viktor Orbán spoke. The French guests mainly attended the largest opposition demonstration together with the citizen movements.

The latter was organized through the Facebook group ‘One Million for the Freedom of Press in Hungary‘ (the English mirror page is here), often dubbed as ‘Milla’. Milla started their event also in the afternoon, with a speech by Dopeman, a popular rap musician, who had successfully re-positioned himself from a popular musician to an artist expressing the opinion of a strong citizen opposition by publishing an explicit song partly using the words of the Hungarian anthem [hu].

Starting from the national holiday of October 23, Milla has been running a highly criticized and incoherent contest for the ‘alternative president’ position – which Dopeman ended up winning. (They admitted on their blog [hu] that the contest's process was not perfect.)

The rapper cited the many problems of the Hungarian society in his opening speech [hu] on March 15, also quoting his own lyrics about the struggles of living in Hungary. Afterwards representatives of those social groups that have been affected by the current government's politics – students, journalists, members of the civil society organizations, etc. – also spoke.

A military parade in Budapest on the National Day of Hungary. Photo by DAVID FERENCZY, copyright © Demotix (15/03/12).

A military parade in Budapest on the National Day of Hungary. Photo by DAVID FERENCZY, copyright © Demotix (15/03/12).

At the same time, in front of the Hungarian Parliament, PM Orbán compared the Hungarian society's loan-taking to a frog that feels comfortable in a pot of slow-boiling water until it's almost too late.

His criticism of the EU was highlighted by the international media, and here is what Eva Balogh had to say about it on her blog:

[…] As for the current political atmosphere in Europe Orbán lashed out with a few harsh words on that topic. Hungarians understand that “the European Union is not an alliance of saints but they cannot watch with folded arms while some political and intellectual trend forces an unholy alliance on Europe.” […]

By the end of the Milla event, a far-right group ‘Sixty-Four Counties Youth Movement‘ (the name refers to the 64 counties that existed before the Treaty of Trianon, a resentful memory in the Hungarian history) rallied at the same place, generating a conflict which was solved by the presence of the police. The youth movement then went to the local office of the International Monetary Fund, where they wanted to hand in a petition to the representatives of the organization, and when they were told they could not do it, they lit firecrackers inside the building. Egyenlítő blog recorded their actions and shared the video on YouTube.

March 16 was still about celebrating the 1848 revolution, but some Budapest youths decided to do it their own way. ‘More Techno To The Parliament‘ is a movement opposed to the current political situation, but is reacting to it by using some key terms of political speech. They hold parties on national holidays where they talk about the ‘techno question’ and promote the idea of a ‘state techno radio’, not missing out the issue of the need for professional speaker systems and a DJ in each village. This time the party was at Budapest's Heroes’ Square:

On March 17, also at Heroes’ Square, some 130 people took an oath [hu] as new members of a paramilitary group called the Hungarian National Guard. The ‘guardists’ have become popular in the past few years in Hungary, but because of their radical activities the core group,the Hungarian Guard, had been banned. Similar groups re-appeared in some villages in northern Hungary (Global Voices posts about this are here and here), threatening the Roma population with their presence.

This video shows the anti-far-right protesters, too, holding posters saying ‘No Garda’, ‘No Racism’.

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