Hundreds of thousands of people are estimated to have participated in the “Peace March” — organized by the pro-government NGO CÖF and its foundation CÖKA — on the March 15 national holiday. This was the ninth such march. It is usually held before elections when the pro-government circles hold peaceful demonstrations of force, or when they want to show that there are a lot of Hungarians behind the Orbán government. Fidesz supporters from all over the country travel to the event.
The March 15 peace march was announced back in January, originally to send a message to “Brussels” again. They also wanted to warn of the dangers they suspect in case the opposition wins the April elections. The president of CÖF, László Csizmadia, said that they expected 680,000 participants, more than ever before. However, Russia’s war against Ukraine eventually led to a change of theme and the main slogan became peace and anti-war.
The Peace March started from Elvis Presley Square in Buda. The participants lined up behind a banner with the words “Peace March” and “NO WAR”.
Photo by Zoltán Balogh/MTI
In the front row, again, several well-known public figures appeared. As usual, there were the organizers and Fidesz opinion leaders, such as Fidesz founder and publicist Zsolt Bayer; and the editor-in-chief of the pro-Fidesz weekly Demokrata, András Bencsik. They were joined by the singer of veteran rock band EDDA, Attila Pataky, who wore a T-shirt with Viktor Orbán’s face on it and with the words “The leader of Europe”. Roma celebrity Győzike also took part in the Peace March.
This year, however, the readers of Gazeta Polska, a Polish newspaper close to the Law and Justice party (PiS), were not present, as the Poles decided to hold a peace march in their home country, in support of Ukraine, and to donate the rented train to Ukrainian refugees instead. Despite this, the organizers of the Peace March asked Polish supporters of the Orbán government to attend the event. It is not known how many people turned up, but some Polish flags could be seen in the crowd.
The dominant flag was of course the Hungarian one, of which there were plenty, and many people carried signs with the name of a Hungarian settlement in Hungary or beyond its borders, indicating where they were coming from. Many wore orange jackets and almost without exception everyone donned a cockade in honor of the national holiday.
Photo by Zsolt Czeglédi/MTI
Photo by Zsolt Czeglédi/MTI
The crowd marched cheerfully from Elvis Presley Square across Margaret Bridge, along Szent István Boulevard and Alkotmány Street, to the Parliament, Kossuth Square. Groups of people could often be heared singing the Fidesz campaign song, reminiscent of a countryside wedding, “Piros volt a paradicsom, nem sárga, Magyarország előre megy, nem hátra” (“The tomato was red, not yellow, Hungary goes forward, not backwards”).
But on the route of the Peace March, supporters of Viktor Orbán also had to face unsolicited posters. The Everyone’s Hungary Movement and the youth branch of the Democratic Coalition had put up posters protesting against the “Putinist Orbán government.” Among the posters condemning Russia’s war against Ukraine, there was also one that recalled the regime change: perhaps the most powerful poster of conservative party MDF at the time was the one on which a Soviet general’s head was imposed from the back, showing the thick back of his head and his soldier’s hat, with the words “Tovarisi konyec!” (Comrades, it’s over!). Now similar posters were made, only with the back of Viktor Orbán’s head, with the caption “Orbán, konyec!” (Orbán, it’s over!)
Photo via Everyone’s Hungary Movement’s Facebook page
In addition, speakers played to the marchers Viktor Orbán’s previous speeches from 2007-2008, in which he harshly criticized Russia for its aggression against Georgia and stressed that although oil comes from the East, freedom always comes from the West. Some of the marchers responded to the opposition action by whistling or showing their middle fingers.
The Peace March arrived at Kossuth Square around 3pm to hear Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s speech.
Featured photo by Zoltán Balogh/MTI