Orban's opponent seeks to rally support at the demonstration – Top Stories (Trending Perfect)


(Bloomberg) — A rising star in Hungary's opposition led the second mass protest in as many weeks in an attempt to build popular support for a long-shot bid to challenge Prime Minister Viktor Orban's rule.

Most read from Bloomberg

Peter Magyar rose to prominence after two of Orbán's key allies, including Magyar's ex-wife, former Justice Minister Judit Varga, resigned in February.

The internal fallout between the couple plays out daily on social media and highlights wider corruption allegations, helping Magyar attract public attention in the Eastern European country.

Read more: Orban is exposed to new controversy after a previous leaked tape from within

Tens of thousands joined a protest outside the Hungarian parliament in central Budapest on Saturday organized by Magyar, a 43-year-old lawyer and former diplomat turned whistleblower.

Magyar, who has not yet officially joined a political party, plans to use the rally to detail his plans to challenge Orbán's party in the European Parliament and local municipal elections scheduled for June. An opinion poll conducted by Republikon and published by the Telex news website on Friday showed that Magyar's party would immediately be among the strongest opposition forces, although it remains far behind Orbán's Fidesz party.

Corruption issue

Orbán's party has dominated Hungary since returning to power in 2010, and former political upstarts have quickly weakened or dismantled support from established opposition groups.

Many protesters acknowledged that Magyar has not yet established himself as a leader, but his sudden rise represents an opportunity to build a critical mass against Orbán's regime.

“There are a lot of people who have grievances that have been suppressed for a long time,” said Andrea Varga, 52, who traveled to the demonstration from the western Hungarian town of Agca. “A lot of things have happened so quickly in the space of a month, anything can happen.”

Magyar's release of a tape related to a high-profile corruption case has temporarily put Orbán's government on the defensive. In response, the massive information machine controlled by the Prime Minister unleashed a barrage of attacks against the Hungarians.

Under Orbán, Hungary has fallen to last place among EU member states in Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index. The European Union continues to withhold two-thirds of the 30 billion euros ($32.5 billion) in funding for Hungary that it suspended in 2022 over corruption and rule of law concerns.

Orbán officials said Magyar, as a former executive director of a state company, was a beneficiary of the system. He also held seats on the boards of several other state-owned companies until his resignation to begin his political career.

Another protester, Krzysztof Szakmary, said: “The fact that he was able to leave all that behind gives him tremendous strength.” “Look around,” said Szakmari, 22, an economics student, gesturing to the crowd gathered behind him. “When did we last see things like this in the last few years?”

(Updates with protest votes from paragraph 8.)

Most read from Bloomberg Businessweek

©2024 Bloomberg L.P



Leave a comment