On Tuesday, while parliament discussed a motion by Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s administration that would raise the tax rate for hundreds of thousands of small businesses, a reporter for Reuters said that some 1,000 protesters stopped a bridge in the heart of Budapest.
Before marching to a neighboring bridge over the River Danube, the demonstrators first congregated at a major square opposite the parliament. There, they blocked traffic between the two sides of Budapest while a significant police force was present.
Nationalist Orban is facing his toughest challenge yet since taking power in a 2010 landslide, with inflation at its highest in two decades, the forint plumbing record lows and European Union funds in limbo amid a row over democratic standards.
Orban’s government submitted the amendments to parliament on Monday, drastically tightening eligibility for the simplified tax regime, which many small businesses opted into due to the low administration and low tax rate it offered.
However, the government says the system was abused by some businesses forcing workers into the scheme to curb their own costs, facilitating a form of covert employment.
The new rules are set to take effect in September, pending parliamentary approval. The tax had been due to raise 237 billion forints ($572 million) this year.