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Europe
Massive pro-government march in Budapest
More than 100,000 rally in support of Hungarian PM's reforms, ahead of bailout talks with EU which opposes legislation.
Last Modified: 22 Jan 2012 04:16

More than 100,000 people have marched in the Hungarian capital in support of Viktor Orban, the Hungarian prime minister, who is under fire from the European Union and at home over controversial reforms.

The demonstration, which headed for the parliament in Budapest, was organised by Orban's ruling centre-right Fidesz party.

The long procession dubbed the "Peace March for Hungary" left Heroes' Square at 4pm (15:00 GMT) on Saturday and began arriving two hours later at the Neo-Gothic legislature on the banks of the Danube River.

The European Commission has given Hungary a month to change some laws, particularly those related to the independence of the central bank.

The laws have impeded talks with the EU over a $25bn credit from the bloc and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Orban is to meet Jose Manuel Barroso, the president of the European Commission, in Brussels on Tuesday.

The prime minister has said that "a political agreement" will likely be reached at that meeting.

Many marchers carried Hungarian flags, candles, torches and signs expressing their support for Orban.

Al Jazeera's Rory Challands, reporting from Budapest, said that Orban had before him a very difficult choice.

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"If he doesn't capitulate to the EU and the IMF then what that might do is jeapordise the money that the IMF might provide for Hungary to help it out of its dire economic situation," he said.

"If he does capitulate, he runs the risk of looking quite weak in front of his supporters, because he did win a two-thirds majority in 2010 ... but since then his opinion polls have been sliding and he is not nearly as popular as he was.

"We have seen that thanks to exaggerated and biassed reports, our country is being portrayed in an unjust and undignified way and that is harming our economy and our people," the organisers said in their call to protest.

"We want nothing else than for the people of Europe and the United States to understand that we want to live in freedom, within the framework of democracy, by respecting others.

"We democrats believe in our nation's independence, we believe in its future and its present."

Demonstrators came from all over Hungary, as well as from neighbouring countries with large ethnic Hungarian populations, such as Romania and Slovakia.

Many of those taking part carried Hungarian flags and banners with slogans saying "We love our country, we love Viktor".

The crowd remained peaceful throughout the demonstration, playing drums and repeatedly singing the Hungarian national anthem, as well as revolutionary chants from the 1848 to 1849 rebellion against Austria.

Some marchers brandished anti-EU placards.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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