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Protests halt Hungary internet use tax

Orban forced to bow to popular pressure

Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban was forced to bow to popular protests today, agreeing to suspend a planned tax on internet use.

A scheme to make service providers pay 150 forints (39p) per gigabyte of internet traffic - later amended as a cap at different monthly rates for individual and business users - prompted tens of thousands of people to make their discontent known during two protests in the capital Budapest over the past week.

Many protesters considered the tax as another effort by Mr Orban to centralise power, muffle the media and increase the role and influence of the state in many walks of life.

While his Fidesz party retained its two-thirds parliamentary majority in April's elections and the prime minister is at the start of his third four-year term, anti-government sentiment appears to be on the rise.

Mr Orban said that the tax would not be introduced because "people have questioned the rationality" of the measure.

However, he announced that the government will hold a national consultation from mid-January about regulating and taxing the internet.

"We are not communists. We are not governing against the people but together with the people," he claimed.

The government had originally painted the protests as a left-wing initiative, but it soon became clear that the planned tax had mobilised mostly youthful crowds from across the political spectrum, including many marching for the first time.

The prime minister expressed his preference in Romania in summer for what he called an "illiberal new state based on national foundations."


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