May 8, 2018 / 11:08 AM / a year ago

Thousands of protesters rally against PM Orban outside parliament

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban (R, 1st row) attends the opening session of parliament after the recent election in Budapest, Hungary May 8, 2018. REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo

BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Thousands of Hungarians protested outside parliament on Tuesday against what they described as Viktor Orban’s authoritarian rule, after parliament convened for its first session following an election that gave the premier a third straight term.

Right-wing nationalist Orban has increased his control over the media and put allies in charge of formerly independent institutions. His hostility to accepting migrants into Hungary has put him in conflict with the EU, but proved popular in last month’s vote, particularly in rural areas.

Orban is due to be elected prime minister on Thursday in a vote expected to be a formality, and address parliament.

Protesters in Budapest, waving national and EU flags, urged the fragmented opposition parties to unite their forces. The protest was smaller than two previous rallies in April when tens of thousands took to the streets.

“Viktor Orban is neither a Christian nor a democrat,” said Balazs Gulyas, one of the organisers, referring to a radio interview last week in which Orban said his government was building an “old-school Christian democracy”.

Orban’s Fidesz party holds 133 of 199 parliamentary seats, and he is the longest-serving premier in post-communist Hungary.

Some protesters criticised his tough stance on asylum-seekers. At the peak of the EU migration crisis in 2015, Orban built a fence on Hungary’s southern border and set up secure camps where asylum applications are now handled.

“I think they have been handling the migration crisis in an inhumane manner ... I don’t know what the right solution would be but this is the wrong one,” said Gergely Gyallai, a student.

Reporting by Marton Dunai; editing by Andrew Roche and Peter Graff

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