protestors is a new entry this year
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has cut a
controversial figure since being re-elected with a two-thirds
majority in April.
Although his party – which he was a founding member
of and has led since 1992 – also performed well in
May's European elections, he has disillusioned the public with
a series of industry-specific taxes.
One such tax, introduced in the summer, was levied on
advertising revenues generated by media organisations,
affecting companies in several bands up to a maximum rate of
40% on revenues of more than about $80 million.
However, the tax was criticised as an attack on media
plurality, because much of its revenue would be garnered from
just one broadcaster, providing a competitive advantage to
state broadcaster TV2. The tax bill on German company RTL's
revenues would have amounted to about $18 million –
nine times the TV station's profits from the previous year.
While the public reaction to this levy could be described as
disgruntled, there were no significant popular objections,
despite RTL and TV2 both going off the air for a day in
When the government proposed implementing a tax on internet
usage of Ft150 ($0.61) per gigabyte, however, the public was
Within a week, 10,000 people had marched against the
proposed tax in Budapest.
"The move… follows a wave of alarming anti-democratic
measures by Orbán that is pushing Hungary even further
adrift from Europe," said the organisers of the march.
"The measure would impede equal access for cash-poor schools
and universities," they added.
The reaction forced the government to add an amendment to
the Bill, capping the potential charge for individuals at Ft700
per month and for companies at Ft5,000 per month.
However, the concessions were not enough to quell the
demands of the protesters that the tax be scrapped and as many
as 100,000 in Budapest – a city of 1.8 million
– again took to the streets.
Protests were recorded in other Hungarian cities, as well as
solidarity protests in Poland, Germany and the UK, and
Orbán had no choice but to back down on the tax less
than a week after the first protest.
There is no doubt that other countries will have been
closely observing the tactic of industry-specific taxes, both
for the purpose of revenue collection – the 'internet
tax' was set to raise more than $115 million per year
– and for targeting specific industries.
One lesson they should take from Hungary is that taking on
one of the most organised demographics in the world –
internet users – is likely to end in defeat.