Political rallies in Hungarian capital reflect swing to the right
Mar 15, 2010, 21:10 GMT
Budapest - With just four weeks to go before Hungarians vote in general elections, two large pre-election rallies in the capital on Monday reflected a marked shift to the right after eight years of socialist government.
March 15 is the day Hungarians remember their country's doomed 1848 revolution against rule by the Habsburg Empire.
However, with even US President Barack Obama issuing a statement to mark the 162nd anniversary, the public holiday in Hungary was overshadowed by present day politics.
A crowd of tens of thousands - fewer than the 100,000 claimed by organisers - greeted the leader of the centre-right opposition party Fidesz with cries of 'Viktor, Viktor!'
Former prime minister Viktor Orban has been waiting eight years for the victory that, with elections due on April 11, polls suggest is now within his party's grasp.
'The opportunity is here, we 21st century Hungarians can bring about our own revolution on April 11,' Orban told this audience.
Although the official launch of its official election campaign, this was not an occasion for setting out a detailed election platform - Fidesz remained reticent on precise details of policy.
A major thrust of the party's campaigning has been to paint the governing Socialist Party as a hive of corruption and lying about the nation's economy.
Only when Fidesz takes office will it have the opportunity to establish the 'true' state of Hungary's finances and reveal its own economic policy, the party says.
On the other side of the capital, meanwhile, the extreme right party Jobbik held its own pre-election rally.
Party leader Gabor Vona greeted the crowd of thousands - many in combat trousers and boots - that filled some 200 metres of a broad avenue in the centre of the capital.
He opened with Jobbik's rallying cry 'God grant!' to which the crowd roared: 'A brighter future!'
Vona then won enthusiastic applause by deriding the leader of a Hungarian Roma council, who is currently under investigation for corruption.
A campaign against what Jobbik calls 'Gypsy crime' has been a key factor in the party's increasing support over recent years.
Hungary's Roma minority is thought to make up as much as 7 per cent of the population of 10 million.
The party's paramilitary Hungarian Guard, outlawed last summer by the courts, is believed to have played a key part of this campaign and the rise in profile of the Jobbik as a whole.
Jobbik polled almost 15 per cent nationwide in last year's European parliament elections, with support particularly strong in deprived rural areas of the country.
Corruption will be stamped out and politicians of all stripes will be held to account after the general election, Vona told the crowd.
The Jobbik leader, flanked by two militaristic guards, also called for independence from 'Washington, Brussels, Tel Aviv' and other powers that would seek to control Hungary.
In a survey earlier this month by the pollster Szonda-Ipsos, 17 per cent of 'decided voters' said they intended to vote for the far- right party. The governing Socialists polled only slightly better, with 20 per cent support.
However Fidesz, despite a slight drop since February, polled 57 per cent, suggesting that, barring a major upset, the centre-right party is still on track to form Hungary's next government.