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Weeklies on Péter Magyar

March 25th, 2024

Weekly newspapers were already on the stands when tens of thousands of people attended the 15 March rally where Péter Magyar, the divorced husband of former justice minister Judit Varga announced his plan to set up a new centrist party. This week, most commentators express scepticism about his initiative.

In Demokrata, Gábor Bencsik finds it strange of Hungary’s left-liberal intellectuals to expect their Messiah to come from the Right and bring allegedly disillusioned Fidesz supporters with him. After Momentum founder András Fekete-Győr and former opposition frontrunner Péter Márki-Zay, Péter Magyar is the third consecutive would-be saviour of that ilk, he remarks. Bencsik concludes, however, that ‘it is not sufficient to come from the Right, you also have to be talented to be successful’.

In Mandiner, Dániel Kacsoh quotes a recent public opinion poll which suggests that the 16% of respondents who say they would support Magyar’s new party are overwhelmingly former left-wing party supporters. Only 2% voted Fidesz in the past. He predicts that the domestic harassment scandal around him will put an early end to Magyar’s political career. Kacsoh would rejoice if that happened, for the sake of Magyar’s three children – and the public at large. (For the so-called harassment case, see BudaPost, March 22.)

In one of three editorials, Magyar Narancs interprets the police report on a conflict between Magyar and his wife more than three years ago as a typical example of the ’Empire striking back’. Such an attempt at character assassination, the editors write, exemplifies the current state of the country – what happens to you if you manage to gather tens of thousands of people to protest against government policies. The harassment accusation, the editors suggest is ‘a relatively mild symptom of what Hungary has become’.

In Heti Világgazdaság, Réka Kinga Papp suggests that Péter Magyar has limited charisma and few revolutionary ideas. She attributes the enthusiasm of the opposition-leaning press about him to two parallel ‘mistakes’. The first is the idea that the opposition must target the supporters of the opposing side, although such a policy can only result in emptying their own message. The second is the mania of waiting for a Messiah, which she believes is a reflection of Prime Minister Orbán’s uncontested authority in his own camp. Instead, she suggests, the opposition should confront the country’s burning problems.

Magyar Hang’s Szabolcs Szerető, on the other hand, hopes that Péter Magyar’s initiative will not peter out after a few weeks. He finds it mistaken to dismiss his supporters as naïve folk waiting for a Messiah. Instead, he believes there is a huge demand for a new opposition force and Péter Magyar may ’provide the supply side’. From now on, however, he cannot remain a one-man show if he wants to survive. He should find allies to set up a movement behind his future party – and rather sooner than later, Szerető concludes.

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