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Hungary: Tens of thousands rally in support of Orban rival

April 6, 2024

Former government insider Peter Magyar parted ways with the right-wing, ruling Fidesz party. The lawyer says his political movement will bring left and right together against Viktor Orban's rule.

Protesters rallied in support of opposition movement founder Peter Magyah, in Budapest, Hungary on April 6, 2024
The protest was called by Peter Magyar, who only recently became critical of PM OrbanImage: Justin Spike/AP/dpa/picture alliance

A contender to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban brought tens of thousands of people onto the streets of downtown Budapest on Saturday.

Peter Magyar, who until recently had close links to the government, launched a political movement in February that seeks to dethrone the populist leader after 14 years in power.

Magyar, a lawyer who used to be married to Orban's former justice minister, recently alleged entrenched corruption and cronyism among Hungary's leaders.

What happened at the protests?

Protesters marched to the parliament building, some of them shouting: "We are not scared" and "Orban resign!"

Many wore the red-white-green national colors or waved the Hungarian flag.

Magyar addressed the crowd, describing how his new political movement would bring together those frustrated by Orbán's rule and the fragmented, ineffectual political opposition.

"Step by step, brick by brick, we are taking back our homeland and building a new country, a sovereign, modern, European Hungary," Magyar told supporters.

"Our elected leaders have incited the Hungarian people against each other for the past 20 years. Whether the fate of our country went well or we were close to bankruptcy, we were pitted against each other instead of allowing us to band together," Magyar added. "We will put an end to this now."

Who is Peter Magyar?

Magyar is the ex-husband of Orban's former justice minister Judit Varga.

Having spent years close to the ruling Fidesz party, the 43-year-old parted ways to create a new political movement.

Within days, his accusations that Hungary is run by a "mafia" on behalf of oligarchs and anti-democratic elites started gaining traction.

Magyar also accused one of Orban's ministers of running a centralized propaganda machine.

He then published an audio recording of his ex-wife, describing an attempt by a senior aide to Orban's cabinet chief to interfere in a corruption case.

Hungary: New opposition figure a threat to Viktor Orban?

Chink in Orban's armor?

Already this year, Orban has been rocked by a child sex abuse scandal that forced the resignation of the country's president and Varga.

Magyar's latest allegations of corruption and cronyism could impact support for Fidesz in the European parliamentary elections.

Orban has long been accused by the European Union of eroding the rule of law in Hungary, controlling the media and altering the country's election system to suit his party.

Brussels has withheld funding worth billions of euros to Budapest over the controversial policies.

It is doubtful, however, that Magyar will meet the deadline to create a new party to run in the EU vote.

His message appears to be resonating with ordinary Hungarians. Around 68% of voters say they have heard about Magyar's new political movement, according to a study by pollster Median for the HVG news weekly. Some 13% of those said they were likely to support his party

The government has labeled Magyar an opportunist, who lost positions in several state companies and remains bitter after his divorce from Varga.

mm/ab (AP, Reuters)