Sunday 7 April 2024 - 23:00

‘Hungarians Rise’: Tens of Thousands Protest against Orban in Budapest

Story Code : 1127426
‘Hungarians Rise’: Tens of Thousands Protest against Orban in Budapest
The protest against Orban’s government was called by lawyer and former insider Peter Magyar, who has shot to prominence in Hungarian politics over a child abuse scandal.  

AFP journalists said about 100,000 protestors gathered in Kossuth Square in front of the parliament, with many carrying national flags and holding up signs that read “Hungarians rise!”

“We will take back our country step by step, and brick by brick we will build a sovereign, modern Hungary,” Magyar told a cheering crowd.

He said he would soon announce a new political party to run in European and local elections in June.

Magyar, 43, is the ex-husband of Orban’s former justice minister Judit Varga and was in the orbit of the ruling Fidesz party until he split, vowing to challenge Orban’s “power factory” by forming a new party.

Varga was forced to stand down from public life over her role in the pardoning of officials involved in a child abuse scandal and Magyar has since emerged as a fierce Orban critic.

Last month, Magyar released a recording allegedly implicating a top minister in a high-profile corruption case, and called for the chief prosecutor to resign.

“Magyar’s initiative has to be supported because... with the current opposition, it is hopeless to fight Orban,” 49-year-old cook Leo Szabo told AFP, adding he would vote for Magyar’s party once it is operating.

Sports coach Tamara, 36, who declined to give her full name, said she was “sceptical”, but went to the protest since “something needed to be done because it’s insane how much this government has gotten away with”.

Twenty-year-old student Peter Nagy said he was willing to give Magyar a chance as Hungarians “had nothing to lose”.

According to a recent poll, Magyar’s party could get between 11 to 15 percent in the country of 9.7 million, where elections are due by 2026.

Orban is facing the biggest political crisis of his 14-year premiership since it emerged in February that a man convicted in a child sex abuse case had been granted a presidential pardon and was released from jail.

Since returning in 2010 to lead the EU member state, Orban has moved to curb press freedom and made other changes to tighten his grip on power, often clashing with Brussels over rule-of-law issues.

He has also clashed with other EU and NATO members over his ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, maintained even after the outbreak of the Russia-Ukraine war.

He held up an EU aid package for Ukraine for months, before finally lifting his veto in February.