By Bence Janek
Hungary’s Prime Minister Victor Orbán announced on October 31 the revocation of the proposed internet tax, which will be replaced by a plan of a national consultation over internet use. The move came in the wake of two well-attended demonstrations in Budapest and a planned third, as well as others held across the country, and comes as a relief to the majority of Hungarians. However, uncertainty remains as to how the internet will be affected by the upcoming national consultation.
People do not understand the necessity of “telecommunication tax” therefore it cannot be introduced in “its current form”, Orbán told public radio on Friday morning. According to Orbán “the debate has gone askew” and “a common basis is missing.” He also announced that in mid-January, a national consultation will have to be launched on the internet.
Orban also stated that “We are not communists, we wish to govern together with the people.” Zoltan Somogyi, political analyst, former politician of MDF, reacted to this statement on his Facebook page by noting a resemblance between the Prime Minister’s words and former communist leader János Kádár. Somogyi cited an old radio speech from Kádár, the General Secretary of the Hungarian Socialist Workers’ Party and leader of Hungary from 1956 to 1988, in which saying that “We are communists, we wish to govern together with the people.”
It is unclear and who or what could finally convince the Prime Minister to back down. As reported by Index.hu, high-ranked Fidesz politicians phoned Orbán to back out from the plan of internet tax while he was in Switzerland.
Opposition parties are skeptical of Orbán’s retreat on tax. According to LMP (Politics Can Be Different), the government is misleading the people. The green party believes that the idea of Internet tax should be rejected as it is. András Schiffer, chairman of LMP, also reacted to the raising of a national consultation about the internet tax. Schiffer said that the national consultation was the demonstration itself and posted a picture on his Facebook page, in which tens of thousands protestors walking through the Erzsébet Bridge.
Earlier, Mihály Varga, current Minister of National Economy, proposed a 150 forints per gigabyte tax on internet traffic. Later, they announced a cap of 700 forints per private users and 5,000 forints for business users, which means 25-30 billion forint ($82.5 million) income for the state.
First the government stated that the tax is necessary to restore the budget, a few days later they communicated that this amount of money will help to make broadband internet available in every Hungarian home by 2020. Finally, news came in that the government want to use the revenue to raise the salary of military and National Tax and Customs Administration (NAV) employees.
After the announcement intense protests and demonstrations began in Budapest. On the first day, the mostly young protesters gathered in the Heroes Square. Two days later a much larger mass, approximately 40,000 people marched along the Erzsébet Bridge shouting that “We will not pay”, “We want democracy” and “Orbán, clear off.”