When Hungary's government announced a per-megabyte tax on Internet traffic, people were pissed; a week later, 100,000 people took to the streets to let Prime Minister Viktor Orbán know how they felt about the proposal.
The issue has come to stand for the alienation of Hungarians from the mainstream political parties, and has left the government backpedalling, now offering to cap the maximum monthly tax bill at about $3/connection — down from the approximately $294 that the original proposal would have levied on each household (this being equal to the monthly rent on a nice apartment in Budapest).
The march passed several symbols of what they see as the arrogant cronyism of the Orbán regime: numerous "National Tobacco Shops" — nationalized tobacconists awarded to party loyalists as a state monopoly was created two years ago — under the spectacular Buda Palace that Orbán will soon make his office, and past the historic, recently renovated Várkert Bázar market building, which the PM opened to great fanfare in election week, only for it to close again just days later.
Krisztián Bán, a 28-year-old member of Occupy Hungary, told VICE News: "This is just the final straw. There have been so many lies and corruption scandals that people just switched off, but now this is coming up to the surface." He mentioned a recent tax office scandal, official anti-European Union rhetoric, Hungary's closer relations to Russia, and the banning of homelessness from public spaces as examples of the authoritarian tendencies of Orbán's government, which retained power in April in a ballot that OSCE election observers described as "free but not fair."
Huge Internet Tax Protests Galvanize Government Opposition in Hungary [Daniel Nolan/Vice]
(Image: András D. Hajdú)