Thousands in Budapest protest to demand child-protection reform

By Thomson Reuters Apr 26, 2024 | 1:08 PM

By Boldizsar Gyori

BUDAPEST (Reuters) – Thousands took to the streets in downtown Budapest on Friday to demand child-protection reform, led by Peter Magyar, a former government insider who recently launched a political movement challenging the prime minister.

The couple-thousand-strong crowd waved flags and chanted, “We’ve had enough”.

Magyar swooped into Hungary’s political scene in February as the government of Prime Minister Victor Orban was already reeling from a sex abuse scandal at a children’s home that led to the resignation of President Katalin Novak.

“Orban’s government does not guarantee the basic chance for children’s proper development. … They stand no chance,” Magyar said.

As a follow-up of the scandal, ruling party Fidesz submitted a draft bill to the legislature on Tuesday that would mandate stricter penalties for sexual abuse of children, including the inability to obtain parole.

In February Magyar accused the government of widespread corruption and running a centralized propaganda machine. Since then, Magyar has been able to mobilize dissatisfied voters in mass protests.

Orban aides have rejected his accusations, and the newly established Sovereignty Protection Office launched an investigation on suspicions over foreign funding for his campaign.

Rights activists, and U.S. and European officials have criticised the Sovereignty Protection Office and the law that established it.

This year’s European and local elections may be the toughest in Orban’s 14-year rule with Hungary’s economy in recession, the abuse scandal striking his family-values platform at its core, and a political newcomer threatening to upend the status quo.

Even so, Orban’s Fidesz remains the most popular party in Hungary.

(Reporting by Boldizsar Gyori; Editing by Leslie Adler)