Orbán challenger in Hungary mobilises thousands at demonstration

Péter Magyar has promised to bring an end to governmental corruption and a declining quality of life in the Central European country.


A rising challenger to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán held what he called the largest countryside political demonstration in the country’s recent history on Sunday.

About 10,000 people gathered in Debrecen, Hungary’s second-largest city, in support of Péter Magyar, a political newcomer who in less than three months has shot to prominence.

“Today, the vast majority of the Hungarian people are tired of the ruling elite, of the hatred, apathy, propaganda and artificial divides,” Magyar told the crowd. “Hungarians today want cooperation, love, unity and peace.”

Magyar, a former insider within Hungary’s ruling Fidesz party, has since February denounced the nationalist Orbán as running an entrenched “mafia state,” and declared war on what he calls a propaganda machine run by the government.

His party, TISZA (Respect and Freedom), has announced it will run 12 candidates in the European Union elections, with Magyar appearing first on the party list. TISZA has also announced it will run four candidates in local council elections in the capital Budapest.

His appearance on Sunday in Debrecen, a stronghold of Orbán’s ruling Fidesz party, reflected the focus his fledgling campaign has placed on the Hungarian countryside, where Orbán is popular.

The Mother’s Day event was the latest stop on a tour of the country where Magyar has appeared in dozens of cities, towns and villages, often drawing thousands of supporters — numbers that few Orbán opponents have ever been able to mobilise in rural areas.

Recent polls show that Magyar’s party may have become the largest opposition force little more than a month before the election. Pollster Median this week measured TISZA at 25% among certain voters, with Orbán’s Fidesz well ahead at 45%.

Orbán and has party have ruled Hungary with a constitutional majority since 2010.

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