Prime Minister Viktor Orban and joint opposition leader Peter Marki-Zay both held campaign-style rallies in Budapest on October 23, nearly six months ahead of an election that is expected to be closely contested.
Tens of thousands of Orban supporters marched on their way to hear the prime minister give a speech devoted to the commemoration of the country’s 1956 uprising against Soviet domination.
Organizers said they expected as many as 400,000 people to show up.
In his remarks, the nationalist Orban referred to his government’s often-tense relations with the European Union, saying the bloc “speaks and behaves to us…as if we were enemies.”
“Brussels would do well to understand that even the communists could not handle us,” Orban said. “We’re the David whom Goliath is better off avoiding.”
Meanwhile, several thousand opposition supporters gathered to hear a speech by Marki-Zay.
Marki-Zay said the Hungarian people were tired of Orban’s “hate campaigns” against migrants and LGBT people.
“People had enough in 1956, and they have had enough now,” he said.
“Our basic goal -- for all of us, left and right -- is for Hungary to be a democracy, to be governed by the rule of law in a market economy and as part of the European Union,” he added.
Marki-Zay, a 49-year-old conservative mayor, won an opposition primary on October 17 to head a six-party opposition alliance in the general election expected to be held in April.
Orban and his nationalist Fidesz party have won three landslide elections since 2010. But opinion polls show the opposition alliance running closely against Fidesz, and analysts says this could be the closest vote the country has seen since Orban was defeated in 2006.