Orban Challenger Soars in Hungary Poll Ahead of EU Elections

(Bloomberg) -- Peter Magyar, the upstart Hungarian politician who didn’t have a party just weeks ago, has become by far the most popular opposition politician in a potential challenge to Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

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Tisza, the party Magyar joined this month to be able to participate in European Union and municipal elections Hungary holds on June 9, garnered 24% support among decided voters who say they’re certain to cast ballots, according to a Median poll published on the HVG news website on Tuesday.

While that’s a long way from the ruling Fidesz’s 46% backing, it’s more than the double the 9% support of DK, until now the most popular opposition outfit. The representative poll was conducted among 970 people from April 26 to 29, Median said, without giving the margin of error.

Magyar, a 43 year-old lawyer and former diplomat who’s turned into a whistleblower, is campaigning on a pledge to shore up the rule of law and pivot back toward the European mainstream.

He has mobilized popular support in a way no other politician managed to do since Orban’s return to power in 2010. He’s led some of the largest anti-government protests in the past months, railing against corruption and perceived hypocrisy in Orban’s nationalist administration.

Read more: Orban Opponent Rallies Support Vowing Pro-EU Pivot in Hungary

A former regime insider, Magyar burst onto the scene in February during the ruling party’s biggest political crisis, when a presidential pardon granted in a child sex-abuse case toppled two senior Orban allies. One was the former justice minister, Judit Varga, Magyar’s ex-wife, who had been slated to lead Fidesz’s list for EU elections.

Magyar is currently touring the countryside, the base of Orban’s support, where he’s managed to turn up sizable crowds at campaign stops. Still, Orban’s ministers have dismissed the political threat posed by him, saying he was more likely to win over voters supporting other opposition parties than Fidesz backers.

Orban has dominated Hungarian politics, winning four landslide elections since 2010, leveraging the state’s resources and a pro-Fidesz propaganda juggernaut against any potential challengers. The government has portrayed Magyar, a former state company executive, as a beneficiary of the regime.

Still, he has maintained momentum so far, using social media to win over hundreds of thousands of sympathizers. Magyar’s next major rally is scheduled for Sunday in Debrecen, Fidesz’s traditional stronghold in eastern Hungary.

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