Hungarians rally against Orban ahead of Merkel visit
BUDAPEST - Agence France-Presse
Protesters hold an EU flag in front of the building of the parliament in Budapest downtown on February 1, 2015 during their anti-government demonstration to protest against the policy of the Orban's government prior to German chancellor Angela Merkel's visit to Hungary. AFP Photo.Thousands of Hungarians took to the streets of Budapest on Feb.1 seeking support from Chancellor Angela Merkel against their Prime Minister Viktor Orban a day ahead of the German leader's visit to the ex-communist nation.
The roughly 4,000 protestors, according to AFP estimates, gathered outside parliament to send a message that they oppose Orban's right-wing policies and moves closer to Moscow and away from Brussels.
"I want Merkel to draw a line and to warn Orban not to get too cosy with Russia," Maria Miklosi, a 54-year-old chemist told AFP, holding an EU flag in support of Hungary's membership in the 28-nation bloc.
Smaller rallies were held simultaneously in 11 towns across Hungary as well as six cities around Europe, including London and Amsterdam.
During her brief visit Monday, the first since Orban came to power in 2010, Merkel will deliver a speech at Hungary's German language Andrassy University and visit a synagogue.
Orban has supported EU sanctions against Russia over its involvement in Ukraine, but he has also voiced unease about them saying the EU had "shot itself in the foot" by damaging trade relations with Moscow.
Orban last year in a speech cited Russia as a model for an "illiberal" democracy he envisaged for Hungary.
"Merkel will do everything to not let Budapest diverge from the common European line and weaken the EU's and Berlin's position in the Russian-Ukranian conflict," Daniel Hegedus, an analyst at the German Council on Foreign Relations said.
The chancellor's visit comes two weeks before Russian President Vladimir Putin is due in Budapest for talks with Orban.
Germany is Hungary's biggest trading partner and Merkel's Christian Democrats are in the same centre-right grouping in the European Parliament as Orban's conservative Fidesz party.
Protestors on Sunday expressed hope that Merkel will criticise Orban on what they see as the Hungarian premier's efforts to curb democracy and weaken the rule of law.
"Frau Merkel, save Hungary!", said one sign in German at the rally in Budapest. "Our Angela, deliver us from evil, we want to stay EU citizens" read another placard in German.
"I hope she gets the message," Janos David, a 58-year-old pensioner holding the placard quipped.