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2014 Hungarian Internet tax protests

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2014 Hungarian Internet tax protests

2014 Hungarian protests
Demonstration in Kossuth Square, Budapest, on 17 November 2014
Date 26 October 2014–present
Location Mainly Budapest
Causes
Goals
Result
  • Internet tax cancelled[4]
Number
100,000 on 28 October[5]
10,000 on 17 November[6]
3,000 on 4 December[7]

In late October 2014, anti-government demonstrations were held in Hungary, which were triggered by the government's announcement of a proposal to include the taxation of Internet usage in the Taxation Law, to be in effect from 2015. The ruling right-wing coalition’s larger party, Fidesz made their proposal public on October 21, which is meant to extend the existing telecommunications tax to Internet usage. The proposal designates a 150 forint/GB tax rate (with 150 Ft being around $0.62, £0.38, or €0.49). This idea, possibly coupled with other issues surfacing around the government prompted multiple, generally peaceful demonstrations in Budapest and in other cities in and outside Hungary. The amendment to the law is universally referred to as the “internet tax” (Hungarian: internetadó) by Hungarian and global media outlets and critics, although Fidesz isn't using the term in their proposal.

Tax reform

As part of its economical reforms, Fidesz started to draft the new version of the Tax Law for 2015. Minister of National Economy Mihály Varga announced the proposal on October 21.[8] According to the draft, Internet traffic would be taxed with a 150 Ft/GB rate irrespective of the type of data transmitted.

Reactions

Online

A Facebook page named Százezren az internetadó ellen (“Hundred Thousand Against the Internet Tax”) was created on October 21, the same day the proposal was made public, by Balázs Gulyás, a 27 year old political blogger.[9] A week later, on the 28th, the page had more than 225,000 “likes”.

On Twitter, multiple hashtags became associated with the tax and the demonstrations, the most widely used is #internetado (“internet tax”). Others include #netado (“net tax”) and #internettax.

The tax and the demonstrations sparked the creation of memetic images, mocking Fidesz and its chairman, prime minister Viktor Orbán, but some also mocking the demonstrators.

Demonstrations

A "candlelight vigil" with thousands of protesters holding up their phones

Gulyás acted as the main Budapest, also making speeches to the crowd present. The first event was on the 26th in the early evening hours, and instantly got international media coverage. Tens of thousands of people gathered, and while the demonstration’s intention was peaceful, hundreds of people attacked the Fidesz party headquarters after the event finished. The building’s fence was toppled and its windows were broken in, many people hurled broken computer equipment at the building, including CRT monitors. The day ended with no riot police intervention, though they were assigned to the scene after some time to guard the building.

Despite the demand of the demonstrators, Fidesz made it clear they will introduce the tax next year, but they proposed an amendment to cap the tax at 700 Ft/month/subscriber for home users and 5000 Ft/month/subscriber for business users, while stating they intend the tax to be paid by the ISPs rather than the end users. The demonstrators, not finding this satisfactory, gave an “ultimatum” to the government to abandon their plan in the next 48 hours or they would face another demonstration. Since Fidesz didn’t retract their idea, another demonstration was held on the 28th in the early evening hours. Simultaneously, similar events took place in multiple cities in Hungary, and also in Warsaw, Poland. All these later events ended without any vandalism, although riot police was guarding the parliament building. Reuters estimated the number of people approximately 100,000 at the second Budapest demonstration, which was concluded with Gulyás saying that “this is only the beginning”, and projected another gathering for November 17, the day the parliament will vote on the modified Tax Law.

International

Background

Some media outlets speculated about the possible reasons behind the fact that the demonstrations are the largest anti-government events since the protests in 2006 against then-ruling socialist party MSZP. Fidesz won the elections in 2010, gaining supermajority in the parliament, making them being able to pass or change legislation without hindrance from opposing political forces. They also won again in the 2014 election. Party chairman and prime minister Viktor Orbán used this political power to introduce several changes according to his political visions, like economic opening towards nations Eastward outside the European Union, notably Russia. Fidesz also crafted the new constitution of Hungary (now referred to as the “Fundamental Law of Hungary”) on the basis that the existing one was a legacy after the fall of communism in 1989, being a heavily modified version of the communist-era constitution adopted to a democratic, capitalist state.

Possible reasons for the demonstrations’ popularity include Fidesz’s austerity measures and new taxes affecting the telecommunications, energy, and banking sectors, the dissolution of the private pension system, the adoption of a new constitution crafted solely by Fidesz, the approval of the new “Media Law”, the decision to agree with Russia about a loan to support the two-reactor expansion of the Paks Nuclear Power Plant, and the allegedly corrupt nationalization of tobacco shops. Two focal issues which demonstrators are well aware of are the corruption accusations of government-related officials by the US government, and the fact that Fidesz itself opposed and criticized a similar internet tax when rival MSZP considered it in 2008.

References

  1. ^ Dennis Lynch (18 November 2014). "Is Hungary The Next Ukraine? Protests Show Country Ripe For Conflict Between Russia And Europe". International Business Times. 
  2. ^ Pablo Gorondi (3 December 2014). "US Criticism Boosts Hungary's Dissent Movement". ABC News. 
  3. ^ "Hungarian protests show growing opposition to Orbán". EurActiv. 10 November 2014. 
  4. ^ "Hungary internet tax cancelled after mass protests". BBC News. 31 October 2014. 
  5. ^ Marton Dunai (29 October 2014). "Around 100,000 Hungarians rally for democracy as internet tax hits nerve". Reuters. 
  6. ^ "Protests in Hungary: Opposing Orban". The Economist. 22 November 2014. 
  7. ^ "Several thousand march in Hungary in anti-graft protest". Zee News. 4 December 2014. 
  8. ^ " [Here's the internet tax](sic)"Jön az internenetadó . Investor.hu (in Hungarian). October 21, 2014. 
  9. ^ "Kicsoda Gulyás Balázs, a netadó elleni tüntetés szervezője?" [Who is Balázs Gulyás, the organizer of the protest against the tax?].  

See also

External Links

  • Százezren az internetadó ellen – the demonstrations' Facebook page (in Hungarian)
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