Sunday, 14 April 2024

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Hungary’s Orban, a long-time Trump ally, rocked by political scandals

Hungary’s Orban, a long-time Trump ally, rocked by political scandals

Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban arrives to attend a European Council summit at the EU headquarters in Brussels on March 21, 2024.

Sameer Al-doumy | Afp | Getty Images

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has run into political trouble ahead of European parliamentary elections in June, with his ruling party shaken by two political scandals within six weeks.

Orban is a long-time ally of former U.S. President Donald Trump and widely seen as Russian President Vladimir Putin’s closest supporter in the European Union. The right-wing leader has led the central European country since 2010, making him the EU’s longest-serving head of state.

Yet two major scandals have recently rocked his dominance of Budapest’s political landscape at a sensitive time when Hungary is poised to hold both local and European elections in early June.

The latest controversy is “likely to prove more problematic” for Orban, according to analysts at political risk consultancy Eurasia Group, who note that the Hungarian prime minister was previously able to move on from a pardon scandal without a significant loss of public support.

Peter Magyar, a little-known lawyer formerly close to Orban’s government, published an audio recording last week that he says proves top officials conspired to cover up corruption. He has since announced plans to form a new political party to challenge Orban’s Fidesz party.

Lawyer and former government insider Peter Magyar speaks to the people at a demonstration he organised in front of the prosecutor general’s office on March 26, 2024 in Budapest, Hungary.

Janos Kummer | Getty Images News | Getty Images

“From being a practically unknown figure just a few months back, [Magyar] is now successfully organizing big-scale demonstrations in Budapest and is dominating the political agenda and the public discourse,” said Zsuzsanna Vegh, a visiting fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, a transatlantic think tank.

Vegh told CNBC that Magyar’s abrupt political breakthrough indicates a large demand for new political leadership in the country.

“He announced the launch of a political movement, and he may try to tap into a mix of disillusioned Fidesz as well as opposition, and importantly, undecided, maybe even apolitical voters,” Vegh said.

‘Unclear if Magyar can maintain his momentum’

Magyar published a recording on Facebook and YouTube of a conversation with Judit Varga — his then wife and Hungary’s justice minister at the time — in which she implies that…

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