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Orban critic draws crowds in Hungary on eve of EU vote

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Tens of thousands of people rallied on Saturday for Hungarian opposition figure Peter Magyar, who has emerged as the main challenger to longtime nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, on the eve of EU elections.

Although Orbán’s Fidesz party will win an unassailable 50 percent of the vote, the Magyar Tisza movement is expected to win around 27 percent on Sunday, according to the latest polls.

Magyar, a 43-year-old former government insider, rose to prominence earlier this year after a child abuse pardon scandal that rocked Orbán’s government in unprecedented ways.

He has railed against a “system” firmly under the control of Orban, who has ruled the central European country continuously since 2010, making him the longest-serving leader in the EU.

“Together we can save Hungary… We are here and we are ready to change our fate, the fate that a thieving, oppressive power wants to impose on us,” he told a huge crowd, many waving Hungarian flags.

“Viktor Orbán has kept his own people in fear,” he added.

Posters held by the cheering crowds read: “Wake up, Hungarians” and “We are masters of our future.”

“It’s good to be here because people have hope” for a “better future for their families,” Zoltan Ekes, a 49-year-old manager, told AFP.

Geza Kenyer, a 51-year-old engineer, said this was the first Magyar event he attended to protest “incredible corruption”.

“Orban and his people have no values ​​other than staying in power,” said Kenyer, who voted for Fidesz “a long time ago.”

Orban has promised to “occupy Brussels” as a far-right drift across Europe is expected in the EU elections.

Last weekend, tens of thousands of Hungarians gathered at a ‘peace march’ organized by 61-year-old Orban, who is increasingly stoking fears of a war between the West and Russia, which he blames on Brussels and NATO.

Orbán has described himself as “fighting only for peace” in the EU, characterizing the upcoming European Parliament elections as a referendum on the conflict in Ukraine.

As Moscow’s closest EU ally despite invading Ukraine, Orban has refused to send weapons to Kiev while blocking European military aid.

Earlier this year, a rare public outcry erupted in Hungary after it emerged that then-President Katalin Novak had pardoned the accomplice of a convicted child molester.

Novak resigned, but anger at the government – ​​and Orbán’s stranglehold on power – continued to be expressed at the Magyar meetings.

Nearly eight million voters will be called to the polls in Hungary on Sunday. Municipal elections will be held at the same time as the EU elections.

mg-jza/imm

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