Peter Magyar accuses Orban's government of abuse of power and corruption. He mobilizes thousands of followers on the streets of Budapest.

Many people gather in front of a building to protest.

Protests against Prime Minister Orban on Saturday afternoon in the Hungarian capital Budapest Photo: Justin Spike/AP/dpa

BUDAPEST dpa | Tens of thousands of Hungarians demonstrated in Budapest on Saturday against the government of right-wing populist Prime Minister Viktor Orban and called for new elections. Former political insider Peter Magyar, who had recently become a critic of Orban, called for one of the largest protest demonstrations in recent decades.

“The government should return power to the hands of the people and give them the opportunity to choose,” Magyar said in a nearly hour-long speech. Magyar was married to the former Minister of Justice Judit Varga and had held management positions in state and related institutions and companies. In February he made a striking break with his previous political environment. According to his account, the immediate cause was the issue of the pardon of a pedophile collaborator, which led to the resignation of President Katalin Novak and the end of the political career of his ex-wife.

Since his public appearance as a critic of Orban's government, Magyar has accused those around the head of government of corruption and abuse of power. To back up her accusations, last month he released a recording of a conversation he had with Varga early the previous year, when she was justice minister and he was still married to her. In it, the politician describes how followers of Orban's powerful foreign ministry minister, Antal Rogan, would have intervened in the prosecutor's investigations and deleted passages from the files that incriminated the minister.

Varga did not deny the authenticity of the conversation, but claimed that Magyar manipulated and coerced him into making incorrect statements. At Saturday's rally, Magyar shouted to the crowd: “We reclaim our country and our national symbols!” and encouraged people to get involved in his new movement “Up, Up, Hungary!”

Magyar cannot run with his own party in the European elections on June 9 because he cannot meet the deadlines to found a party. But he is negotiating with existing parties to make it possible to run. The result of the European elections in Hungary will be “the first nail in the coffin” of the Orban system, Magyar added.