BUDAPEST - About 100,000 sympathisers of Hungary's government marched yesterday to Parliament in support of Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who has come under heavy criticism from the European Union for laws seen as curbing democracy.
Dubbed the Peace March for Hungary the marchers carried Hungarian flags, candles, torches and signs expressing their support for Mr Orban, while many sang patriotic and folk songs, including the national anthem, as they made their way along the nearly four-kilometre route.
A statement from the Interior Ministry described the event as ``the largest pro-government demonstration in memory'', estimating the crowd at nearly 400,000 people.
But reporters at the scene estimated a far lower turnout, putting it at around 100,000, while organisers said a million attended.
Seeking financial assistance from the EU and the International Monetary Fund, Mr Orban last week said changes would be made to some laws which prompted threats of court action by the EU.
International criticism has centred on the government's efforts to increase political control over the central bank, the judiciary, churches and the media, as well as changes to the electoral law, which are seen as favouring Mr Orban's right-wing Fidesz party.
People at the pro-government event said they wanted to defend Mr Orban from unjust attacks by the EU.
Mr Orban will meet this week with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso.