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Thousands join rally to 'rejoice' over Orban's reforms

Thousands join rally to 'rejoice' over Orban's reforms
Demonstrators march during a protest against a proposed new labor law, billed as the "slave law", in Budapest, Hungary December 21, 2018. REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo   -   Copyright  BERNADETT SZABO(Reuters)
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By Gergely Szakacs

BUDAPEST (Reuters) – Thousands of Hungarians joined a march in Budapest on Friday led by spoof political party MKKP “to support government policies, Christmas and snowfall” – the latest in a string of demonstrations stoked by controversial reforms.

Passage of two laws last week backed by Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s Fidesz party angered a variety of groups. One, dubbed by critics the “slave law”, allows employers to ask staff to work up to 400 hours per year of overtime. Another would set up new courts which critics say could be politically manipulated.

At the rally, one protester brandished a placard saying “Happy boss, gloomy Sunday”.

The Two-Tailed Dog Party (MKKP), launched over a decade ago as a joke, has become a semi-serious force, using ironic humour to tackle practical issues.

“I wanted to come because I consider the Dog Party to be the most serious of all in the current lineup, which is rather sad,” said student Almos Edes, 26, a university student holding a sign saying ‘We promise everything’ beneath a logo of Fidesz.

Edes was sceptical of any change being triggered by the rallies, but said he had joined to make his voice heard.

Friday’s rally also took aim at grievances including regulations that have led to the departure of the Central European University, founded by Hungarian-born billionaire George Soros, from Budapest.

“We can finally work eight days a week. We no longer need to hassle with independent courts. Homelessness has been eliminated. Irritating foreign schools will vanish. And Soros, Soros, Soros, Soros, Soros,” said an invitation to the rally posted on Facebook.

Orban has said the protests have been partly stoked by activists paid by Soros, an accusation Soros’ Open Society Foundation has denied.

The demonstrators were planning to end the rally in Buda Castle outside the Presidential Palace.

MKKP, which is not in parliament, had 3 percent support among voters in November according to pollsters Zavecz Research and Nezopont. Orban’s Fidesz scored 36 and 38 percent in the two surveys.

“I have come to rejoice over the government’s policies,” said Gergo Gocza, 28, holding a sign saying ‘A Sign’.

“This event is not meant to change anything,” he said. “We have come to salute the government and the lots of good they have done for us.”

(Reporting by Gergely Szakacs; editing by Andrew Roche)

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