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Hungarians rally on national day for and against PM Orban

16 march 2015, 13:17

 Thousands of Hungarians took to the streets Sunday in separate national day demonstrations to both protest against, and voice support for, Prime Minister Viktor Orban, AFP reports.

According to AFP photographer estimates, over 6,000 people took part in an anti-government march organised by several civil groups, while around 2,000 attended an official ceremony to hear Orban deliver a speech.

The demonstrations took place on the 167th anniversary of Hungary’s uprising against Austria's Habsburgs in 1848.

Orban's right-wing Fidesz party and its junior coalition partners, the Christian Democrats, have ruled Hungary with an all-powerful two-thirds majority since 2010.

Since then the government has carried out sweeping constitutional and institutional changes that critics say have curbed democratic rights.

"The system is distorted, unfair, it lacks democracy, the electoral system has been restricted, and there are problems with press freedom," Marta Havasi, a 58-year-old protestor, told AFP at the anti-government protest.

Fidesz have suffered a sharp fall in popularity since the end of last year following corruption scandals and mass protests over a proposed Internet tax that was later dropped.

Orban then lost the two-thirds majority in parliament in a byelection defeat in February.

In his speech in front of the National Museum where the 1848 revolution began, the fiercely independent Orban slammed those who threaten Hungary's sovereignty and "lectured" about democracy.

"To be independent among those bigger than us, protect our land, and our homeland, that is our duty to ourselves," he said.

The day passed off without serious incident although one man was detained by police after scuffles broke out pro-and anti-Orban demonstrators near the National Museum.

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