Written by 05:51 World

Turning Against Orban, Peter Magyar Soars in Hungary

Railing against the right-wing government that until recently counted him as a trusted insider, Hungary’s most popular and improbable opposition leader stood on the back of a flatbed truck surrounded by cheering followers.

“Step by step, brick by brick, we will take back our country,” shouted the opposition leader, Peter Magyar, reciting what, during a tour of towns and villages across Hungary, has been the crowd-pleasing mantra of the 43-year-old’s upstart political movement.

Making the moment all the more provocative was the location that Mr. Magyar chose for the rally: just down the road from a house that Prime Minister Viktor Orban owns in Felcsut, the village where the leader grew up.

Since taking power 14 years ago, Mr. Orban has won four general elections in a row, refashioning Hungary into an “illiberal democracy” often more in tune with China and Russia than with its nominal allies in NATO and the European Union. Now, for the first time in years, the country has been swept by a sense that change, though not imminent, is possible.

In elections this month for the European Parliament, Mr. Magyar’s two-month-old party, Tisza, won 30 percent of the vote in Hungary, eclipsing established opposition groups and contributing to the worst performance in years for Mr. Orban’s governing party, Fidesz. Mr. Orban’s party still came in first, but its 44 percent of the vote was down sharply from its tally in previous elections.

Mr. Magyar is vague on specific policies beyond lambasting Mr. Orban and his cronies over corruption, particularly the misuse of billions of euros in European Union funding, and Hungary’s tilt toward Russia. “Anybody who knows Hungarian history knows that we were attacked many times by Russia,” he said in an interview.

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Last modified: 19 June 2024
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