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Frustrated Teachers, Opposition Parties Stage Demonstrations On National Holiday

By Tamás Székely // 2016.03.16.

A one-hour teachers’ strike may be held at the end of March unless the government apologises to the profession while at the same time sending a delegation to the talks capable of negotiating, István Pukli, a headmaster who has become the symbolic leader of the teacher protest movement, said, addressing tens of thousands of demonstrators in Budapest’s Kossuth Square on Tuesday. He set a deadline of March 23 for these conditions to be met. István Pukli insisted that 75% of Hungarians supported the demonstration and that 67% of ruling Fidesz party voters did.

Budapest, 2016. március 15. A Tanítanék Mozgalom által szervezett, a közoktatási, köznevelési rendszer átalakításáért, „az oktatás szabadságáért" meghirdetett demonstráció Budapesten, a Kossuth téren 2016. március 15-én. MTI Fotó: Szigetváry Zsolt

Thousands of protesters attending teachers’ demo in front of the Parliament building

István Pukli listed 950 institutions, 70 organisations and 35,000 private individuals as backing the protest alongside an estimated 50,000-80,000 who attended the demonstration. Another protest organiser said the teachers had 12 demands, among them setting Hungary’s education financing on the same level as the European norm, reducing burdens on both students and teachers and delaying planned changes to schoolleaving exams. Katalin Törley, one of the demonstration’s organisers, said teachers had indicated since 2011 that the education law brought in by the current government was not working and that the staterun body responsible for running schools (Klik) had failed. Teachers, students and parents are suffering, she insisted. Nóra L Ritók, head of education foundation Igazgyöngy, said one of the jobs of education was to iron out social disparities, whereas the current system was leading to even greater ones.

The Hungarian opposition parties also held their own gatherings on the national holiday. Demonstrating in front of the headquarters of the National Election Office in Budapest, the opposition Socialist Party (MSZP) demanded that the people’s right to a referendum be upheld and the independence of taxpayer-funded public media secured. Socialist lawmaker István Nyakó, on the occasion of the March 15 national holiday, demanded the “abolition of shameful censorship”. “We’ve come with demands, not to celebrate,” he said, adding that on the same day in 1848 no one took to the streets to celebrate but rather to demand a republic, citizen rights, press freedom and the abolition of censorship. He called on demonstrators to join together in the fight for “the freedom of the people to vote in a referendum” on the question of Sunday shopping restrictions. When the Kúria, the supreme court, rules on the issue of the referendum “we will wait here in front of the headquarters of the election office and we will be many,” Nyakó said.

Budapest, 2016. március 15. Kunhalmi Ágnes, a Magyar Szocialista Párt budapesti elnöke beszédet mond a párt Mit kíván a magyar nemzet? címmel meghirdetett tüntetésén Budapesten, a Nemzeti Választási Iroda (NVI) elõtt 2015. március 15-én. Az MSZP a köztársaságot, a nép jogát a népszavazáshoz, a közpénzbõl fenntartott média függetlenségét és „az ottani szégyenteljes cenzúra eltörlését" követelte. MTI Fotó: Mohai Balázs

March 15 gathering of the Hungarian Socialist Party (MSZP)

Tyranny in 2016 comes in the form of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and this new form of tyranny attempts to enforce its will not in Vienna, but in Budapest on Kossuth Square, the leader of the leftist opposition Democratic Coalition (DK) said. Speaking at his party’s commemoration of Hungary’s 1848 revolution held in front of Budapest’s Pilvax Café, a historic scene during the revolution, Ferenc Gyurcsány said that when Orbán used the word “freedom”, he “tarnishes one of our most beautiful words”. Gyurcsány, a former Socialist Prime Minister of Hungary, told the several dozen people in attendance that if words had smells, the word “freedom” would smell like spring, but when spoken by the prime minister, the word “emits a foul stench”. The former prime minister said the Hungarians whom DK represents want to live in a “tranquil” country of European civil liberties, equality and fraternity where people care for one another.

Budapest, 2016. március 15. Gyurcsány Ferenc, a Demokratikus Koalíció (DK) elnöke (k), valamint Niedermüller Péter (b) és Molnár Csaba (j), a DK alelnökei az 1848-49-es forradalom és szabadságharc kitörésének 168. évfordulója alkalmából rendezett megemlékezésen Pilvax kávéháznál 2016. március 15-én. MTI Fotó: Marjai János

DK leader and former Premier Ferenc Gyurcsány speaking

The leader of the radical nationalist Jobbik party told a party event to mark the March 15 national holiday that Jobbik will launch a “spring anticorruption campaign”. Addressing party faithful in Budapest’s Petőfi Square, Gábor Vona called for “thieving politicians to be put behind bars”. Referring to attempts to change the constitution to give the state broad counter-terrorism powers among other moves, he accused the government of losing all self-control. Referring to widespread street protests against the government of Ferenc Gyurcsány in 2006, he said: “The Hungarian people in 2006 took to the streets with every right in protest against a lying and corrupt government, and this was an example to successive generations.” Vona vowed to bring before parliament a resolution proposal on “rehabilitating” 2006.

Jobbik leader Gábor Vona speaking

Jobbik leader Gábor Vona speaking

via and MTI photos: MTI