People attend a protest against the government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban in Budapest, Hungary, April 21, 2018. REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo
BUDAPEST - 21 April 2018: Tens of thousands of Hungarians protested on Saturday against government control over the media, which they say helped Prime Minister Viktor Orban to a landslide election victory earlier this month.
The rally in Budapest was the second mass protest against Orban since the April 8 election, with demonstrators urging the fragmented opposition parties to join forces against the rightwing nationalist Fidesz party, which won two-thirds of parliamentary seats at the polls.
Since 2010, the Hungarian premier has increased his control over the media and put allies in charge of formerly independent institutions, while his stand on refusing to accept large numbers of migrants in Hungary has also brought him into conflict with the European Union.
In a Facebook post before the rally, organisers said state media has been turned into Orban's "propaganda machine".
"Our main goal is to dismantle Fidesz control over the public media ... but opposition parties also have a task as they are also responsible for this situation we are in," they said.
"Together with them, we must fight for a new, just and fair election law and an investigation of corruption cases."
Protesters gathered at the parliament, waving national and EU flags. In the same place last Saturday, tens of thousands had protested against what they see as an unfair election system.
As they marched peacefully towards one of the Danube bridges, protesters held banners with slogans such as "Viktor give us back democracy", "We want freedom of the press" and "Regime change".
"Today is the beginning of a process ... in government, I am sure that the opposition parties would not be able to cooperate. In opposition, I see more chance for that," said Adam Farkas, 21, a student.
"We disagree on many things ... but we all want to live in Hungary and the main obstacle to that is Viktor Orban."
Orban won a third straight term in power after a strong anti-immigration campaign. The strongest opposition party in the new parliament is the formerly far-right Jobbik, which has recast its image to be a more moderate nationalist force. Its leader resigned after the election.
The leftist opposition parties are also in turmoil.
"It is not Fidesz which won the election, the opposition parties lost it," said Viktor Mikes, a 26-year old administrator at a multinational company. He said opposition politicians should all step aside, and that new people were needed.
"We should start with a clean slate," he said.
The election victory appears to have emboldened Orban to put more effort into his fight against the EU's migration policies and harden his stance on NGOs that he says have been meddling in Hungary's affairs.
In an interview on Friday on state radio Orban accused George Soros, the Budapest-born financier, of political activism in Hungary, saying his circle had supported the opposition.
"I know they won't accept the result of the election, they will organise all sorts of things, they have unlimited financial resources," Orban said.
The foundation of George Soros on Friday accused Orban of trying to stifle non-government groups, and said it could leave the country if parliament passes a "Stop Soros" law that would impose a 25 percent tax on foreign donations to NGOs that support migration.
The government says the legislation is meant to deter illegal immigration.