The Rise of Peter Magyar: A Threat to Orban's Dominance

The rumor is spreading from Budapest that the EU headquarters in Brussels was bought by the American billionaire of Hungarian-Jewish origin, George Soros, who wants Europe to invade Russia

by Sededin Dedovic
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The Rise of Peter Magyar: A Threat to Orban's Dominance
© Janos Kummer / Getty Images

When elections approach in Hungary, Viktor Orban often spreads blatant conspiracy theories. These days, just before the European elections, a story from Budapest is circulating that the EU headquarters in Brussels has been bought by the American billionaire of Hungarian-Jewish descent, George Soros.

Soros's plan is to send Europeans into war against Russia. After their deaths on the battlefield, millions of non-European migrants will be relocated to the continent. Hungary as a nation would cease to exist. Viktor Orban presented this picture last Saturday (June 1) during the so-called "Peace March" in Budapest – a gathering of his supporters just before the European elections.

"These are historic elections that will decide about war and peace on the continent," said the Hungarian Prime Minister. Orban described his government as the only one in the EU that supports peace. However, he said, there is a chance that "The Forces of Peace" might win the elections.

Orban's slogan is: "Conquer Brussels! No migration, no genders, no war!" In the last four parliamentary elections, Orban's party Fidesz has won a two-thirds majority in parliament, while in three European elections since 2009, it has won more than 50 percent of the votes.

This time, however, it could change – because for the first time, the Hungarian Prime Minister has a serious opponent.

"A unique, completely new situation"

His name is Peter Magyar. He is the former husband of former Orban Justice Minister Judit Varga.

Until a few months ago, he was practically unknown to the Hungarian public. However, since February, the 43-year-old lawyer has enjoyed a meteoric rise in politics. Several times, he has led tens of thousands of people to the streets against Orban's regime.

With his conservative party Tisa (Respect and Freedom), he polls between 25 and 30 percent support, while Fidesz is mostly at 45 percent, but according to some polls, it could drop below 40 percent. "This is a unique, completely new situation," says political scientist Gabor Terek for the Hungarian portal Teleks.

"For someone to emerge from nowhere and suddenly have such massive support against those in power has never happened before in Hungarian politics."

Abandoning the system

Magyar's rise began in February 2024 after a scandal involving then-Hungarian President Katalin Novak.

She pardoned a criminal convicted of aiding and abetting child abuse. This caused great public outrage, especially as Orban and his party colleagues present themselves as morally impeccable protectors of children and often accuse political opponents of wanting to legalize child abuse.

After the scandal, President Novak resigned. At the same time, former Justice Minister Judit Varga withdrew from politics because she was one of the signatories of the petition – at the time of withdrawal, she was Fidesz's main candidate for the European elections.

Varga's ex-husband, Peter Magyar, who had until then held invisible but well-paid positions in Orban's apparatus, used the scandal for what he called "leaving the system." In several sensational interviews, he revealed details about the mechanisms of power and corruption in Orban's system.

Although none of it was fundamentally new, the interviews attracted great attention in Hungary because an insider with good connections spoke out.

Lawyer and Government insider Peter Magyar attends an opposition demonstration at the Andrassy Avenue on March 15, 2024 in Budap© Janos Kummer / Getty Images

Suspicious impression

Although the lawyer presents himself as a flawless person who has left Orban's system, he sometimes leaves a suspicious impression.

When he was still married to Judit Varga, he recorded a private conversation without her knowledge in which she – then the Minister of Justice – made compromising comments about Orban's system. Magyar published the conversation in March 2024, also without her consent.

He entered politics through a kind of "sleeper party." Since the deadline for the European elections was too short, he quickly took over the small Tisa party, founded in 2021 but until recently inactive. Magyar often makes obscure and difficult-to-verify accusations against prominent representatives of Orban's system.

He dismisses questions about them and practically never provides evidence.

Similar views to Orban's

Explicitly conservative Peter Magyar in many ways represents political views similar to Orban's Fidesz – but without the corresponding nationalist demagoguery.

For example, he criticizes bureaucracy in the European Union, but does not incite against Europe. Such positions make him attractive to undecided voters or disappointed Orban supporters. In contrast, Hungarian Prime Minister and his Fidesz party are for the first time in many years on the political defensive, says political scientist Gabor Terek.

"For the first time in a long time, Fidesz has a problem controlling public discourse on topics, nothing comes from them for months," said Terek. "Moreover, Fidesz has suffered very serious personnel losses in recent months," says Terek, referring to the resignations of two popular politicians Novak and Varga.

Orban already has another problem, and it concerns personnel issues. It is about the new president Tamas Sujok, who has been in office for only a few weeks. He allegedly, as a lawyer in the 1990s and 2000s, through intermediaries helped the illegal sale of Hungarian agricultural land to foreign companies.

As with the problem of child abuse, here too, the issue of double standards arises for Orban and his party – because Fidesz once embarked on a campaign against the "land mafia" and the "selling off of Hungarian land to foreigners." So far, Orban has mostly chosen a strategy of silence in all of this.

He does not mention the name of the opposing candidate Peter Magyar. Instead, he threatens: Whoever votes for the opposition will choose war and the downfall of the Hungarian people, reports DW.

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