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Thousands of Hungarians rally to back embattled PM Orban

Category: Headlines

Published: 21st Jan 2012 22:54:07

At least 100,000 people have rallied in Hungary's capital Budapest in support of embattled Prime Minister Viktor Orban and his government.

Participants carried banners in foreign languages, appealing to the European Union to respect Hungarian sovereignty.

Mr Orban and his cabinet have recently come under heavy criticism both at home and in Europe for adopting laws seen as endangering democracy.

The prime minister earlier this week agreed to amend some of the bills.

He is due to meet top EU officials on Tuesday to hammer out details of what changes Budapest is willing to make to the laws to comply with EU treaties.

Saturday's peaceful rally began in Heroes Square - the heart of the Hungarian capital.

The demonstrators then marched down the main boulevard toward the parliament building.

"I would call it a march for peace, to show the government it is not alone, he said, and to show the European Union that we don't like how they are treating it," Zsolt Bayer, a well-known newspaper columnist, told the BBC.

This was a massive show of support for Mr Orban and his Fidesz government, the BBC's Nick Thorpe in Budapest reports.

The backers of the centre-right cabinet also wanted to show that they could mobilise more supporters than the opposition, which earlier this month attracted some 70,000 people for its demonstration.

The legal dispute between Hungary and the EU is about the laws which came into effect 1 January.

The European Commission has warned that the bills on Hungary's central bank, the judiciary and data protection authority put those bodies' independence at risk.

Mr Orban's government has been given a month to make changes. Failure to do so would be grounds for the commission to levy fines or take Hungary to the European Court of Justice.

The commission has also warned that negotiations on a badly-needed loan of up to 20bn euros (£16.5bn; $25bn) from the EU and the International Monetary Fund will not resume until the laws are amended.

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