Hungarians protest against Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government

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Several thousand Hungarians protested against Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government on Wednesday in the second day of anti-government rallies after lawmakers fast-tracked legislation sharply raising taxes for small firms.

An hours-long blockade of a bridge in Budapest on Tuesday failed to derail the approval of a motion by nationalist Orban’s government to increase the tax rate for hundreds of thousands of small businesses.

Wednesday’s rally again gathered outside parliament before protesters chanting “We’ve had enough!” marched across central Budapest, temporarily blocking main traffic junctions and another bridge over the River Danube.

Following the call of the oppositional Momentum party demonstrators protest against the changes in the small business tax (kata) in central Budapest, Hungary, 13 July 2022. A law modifying the small business tax was passed by the Hungarian Parliament on 12 July. On a placard is inscription demanding security for the workers. EPA-EFE/ZOLTAN BALOGH

Zsolt Turi, one of the protesters at the rally, said his income would fall sharply under the revised tax scheme, set to take effect in September, which he called an unacceptable prospect.

“I will go into the black market … paying the minimal social security, or I will grab my suitcase and leave for the nearest normal country,” he said.

Re-elected in April, Orban is facing his toughest challenge since taking power in a 2010 landslide, with inflation at a two-decade high, the forint at record lows and European Union funds in limbo amid a dispute over democratic standards.

A tightening of gas supplies to Europe and soaring fuel costs since Russia’s invasion of neighbouring Ukraine in February have added to pressure on Orban, whose right-wing Fidesz is still by far the most popular party in Hungary.

On Wednesday his government ordered an export ban on fuels like gas and scrapped a years-long cap on utility prices for higher-usage households, rolling back one of the 59-year-old prime minister’s signature economic policies.

The measure will sharply increase electricity and gas prices for households using more energy than average consumption levels.

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