Hungary. Anti-government protest blocks tax law bridge


Budapest, Hungary — Anti-government protesters in Hungary blocked one of the capital’s main thoroughfares during the morning rush hour on Monday, the latest in a series of protests against recent changes to the country’s tax code that have lasted nearly one week.

The crowd, largely made up of food delivery people on bicycles and scooters, blocked two-way traffic on one of Budapest’s main bridges over the Danube. Many of the protesters were independent contractors affected by legislative changes passed by the Hungarian parliament last week, which they say will lead to major tax hikes or job loss.

“A lot of us came because we want change, we want unity. We want to live in a country where they don’t try to tear us apart and reinforce divisions,” said protester Eszter Balazs, 25 years old, restaurant employee and law student.

The wave of protests has taken on an increasingly anti-government character since it began on July 12. Almost every night, thousands of protesters defied the police and marched through central Budapest, blocking roads and major junctions and demanding the law be withdrawn.

Hungary’s ruling Fidesz party, led by nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orban, used its parliamentary supermajority last week to pass the changes, which target a popular tax scheme known as KATA, which allows small businesses and self-employed people like delivery drivers pay a low, flat tax rate. .

The measures, which will come into force on September 1, will force the majority of the approximately 450,000 workers who use the scheme. Many protesters see the move as a form of hastily imposed austerity on workers amid the Hungarian currency’s record weakness against the dollar and euro and the highest inflation in nearly 25 years.

“I would really like to live in this country, but they make it impossible!” said delivery driver Norman, 24, into a megaphone. He didn’t want to give his last name.

“These people are called the big family-friendly government, the ones who kick everyone out of the country?” he said.

The organisers, a self-formed group of delivery couriers, have asked opposition parties and “influential politicians” not to show up at the protest. They promised more protests would follow on Tuesday and Wednesday, and more protests were planned later on Monday in the provincial towns of Szeged and Nyiregyhaza.

Eszter Balazs, the restaurant worker, said she believes the wave of discontent “will continue, and we will always be stronger and more enthusiastic.”

“We have to occupy bridges, we have to become a mass movement and show that we can bring about change through unity because many Hungarians want change. There are a lot of Hungarians who want things to be better for their families,” she said.

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