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Hungary opposition vows 'year of resistance' to Orban

Opposition parties in Hungary hoping to draw tens of thousands of demonstrators to a rally in Budapest on Saturday in new protests against a controversial labour reform signed into law last month
Opposition parties in Hungary hoping to draw tens of thousands of demonstrators to a rally in Budapest on Saturday in new protests against a controversial labour reform signed into law last month AFP/File
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Budapest (AFP)

Hungarian opposition parties on Thursday pledged to turn 2019 into a "year of resistance" against nationalist-conservative Prime Minister Viktor Orban, two days ahead of fresh anti-government protests in Budapest.

"We vow to make 2019 a year of resistance, both inside and outside parliament. And we will do this with the unity and cooperation of all the opposition parties," a group of politicians declared at an impromptu gathering in front of the parliament in the Hungarian capital.

Following a holiday truce, opposition parties, trade unions and civil groups are hoping to draw tens of thousands of demonstrators to a rally in Budapest on Saturday in new protests against a controversial labour reform signed into law last month.

Dubbed a "slave law" by its opponents, the reform has increased the amount of overtime that employers can demand from 250 to 400 hours per year and allows payment to be delayed by up to three years.

The government says the law is needed to tackle Hungary's labour shortage and will enable those who wish to work more hours to earn more.

Hungarian President Janos Ader signed the reform into law just before Christmas, despite more than 10 days of sometimes violent clashes between demonstrators and police in the capital and other cities.

The opposition is also calling for another recent reform to be scrapped that could threaten the independence of judges. And it is demanding greater freedom for public media in a country that is regularly criticised for infringing the right of law.

Since he was re-elected for a third term last April, Orban, an admirer of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has pursued reform policies aimed at creating an "illiberal democracy".

The head of the Socialist Party, Bertalan Toth, welcomed the new show of unity between the leftist, liberal, environmentalist and far-right opposition parties, regretting that they had failed to demonstrate such solidarity during the elections in April.

With 48 percent of the vote, Orban's Fidesz party and its allies holds two thirds of the seats in parliament, giving it the power to make constitutional changes.

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