Hungary sees another day of anti-government protests

Several thousand protesters marched through Budapest for a fourth day to oppose laws promoted by the Hungarian government that critics say will restrict workers’ rights and already have undermined democracy.

The protesters chanted anti-government slogans and braved sub-zero temperatures Sunday while gathered in front of parliament, where speakers denounced revised overtime rules that lawmakers approved Wednesday.

The changes increased the maximum amount of overtime workers can put in a year from 250 to 400 hours to offset Hungary’s growing labor shortage and gave gives employers three years instead of one to settle payments of accrued overtime.

Since the first protest on Wednesday night and others held Thursday and Friday, the demonstrations have evolved to encompass other policies of Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government, including another bill passed Wednesday that establishes a separate court for administrative matters.

A government spokesman, asked to comment on Sunday’s demonstration, said in an email that citizens had a constitutional right to assemble freely as long as laws weren’t broken in the process.

On Thursday, some protesters threw bottles and smoke bombs at officers in riot gear guarding the neo-Gothic parliament building. Police said two officers were injured.

The demonstrations have attracted participants from across Hungary’s spectrum. They include members of Jobbik, which started out as a radical right movement and has worked to reframe itself as a “peoples'” party. A clutch of left and liberal opposition parties, trade unions and supporters of a Budapest university founded by Hungarian-American billionaire George Soros.

Central European University announced this month it was leaving Hungary for Austria, saying it had been “chased out” by Orban’s government.

After Sunday’s official protest ended, hundreds of demonstrators marched across the Danube River, blocking at least two major road bridges and flanked by police. One faction, chanting for a free media, declared it was heading for the state television building, four miles away in a northwestern suburb of the Hungarian capital.

Orban’s allies have denounced the protests as the work of liberal organizations financed by Soros. Gergely Gulyas, the prime minister’s chief of staff, called Thursday night’s participants Soros’s “kept people” displaying “open anti-Christian hatred.”

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