Hungary’s government rocked as former insider leaks recordings


Protests have erupted in Hungary as a leaked recording stoked a continuing scandal that has rocked the government.

The tape, released by former government insider turned critic Peter Magyar, who claims that it proves top officials are corrupt, brought thousands out onto the streets of Budapest on Tuesday evening. The episode extends the pressure on Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s populist government, which critics have long accused of systemic corruption.

The protesters demanded the resignation of Orban, as well as his chief prosecutor. The nationalist leader, who has ruled since 2010, is facing one of the strongest public challenges to his tightening grip on power.

Hungary’s largest protests in years erupted in early February when it was revealed that the president had issued a pardon to a man imprisoned for covering up child sexual abuses by the director of a state-run orphanage. Close Orban allies, including the president and then-justice minister Judit Varga, were forced to resign in the face of public outrage.

Magyar, Varga’s ex-husband and a lawyer who previously enjoyed close ties to Orban’s Fidesz party, has since turned whistleblower and is seeking to launch his own political career.

Earlier on Tuesday, he published on his Facebook page a recording of a January 2023 conversation with his ex-wife in which she detailed an attempt by aides to Orban’s cabinet chief Antal Rogan to interfere in the prosecution files in a corruption case centred on former justice ministry state secretary Pal Volner.

“They suggested to the prosecutors what should be removed,” Varga says in the recording.

Magyar said he has given the recording to the Metropolitan Public Prosecutor’s Office in Budapest, to be used as evidence. The office said it would analyse the tape and further evidence would be collected.

“It is legally and physically impossible to eliminate and meddle into prosecution documents,” it said in a statement.

Prosecutors were scheduled to hold a press conference on Thursday.

Varga did not dispute that she had made the comments on the recording. However, she accused Magyar of domestic violence and claimed she had made the statements under duress.

“I said what he wanted to hear so I could get away as soon as possible. In a situation like this, any person can say things they don’t mean in a state of intimidation,” Varga wrote on Facebook.

“Peter Magyar made a secret recording of his former spouse, me, in our home and now used this to achieve his political goals. He is not worthy of anybody’s trust,” she added.

Magyar said earlier this month that he plans to establish a new, pro-EU, political party.

Hungary’s fragmented opposition has consistently failed to mount a serious challenge to Orban’s self-described “illiberal” agenda, allowing Fidesz a constitutional majority that critics complain is being used to push back democracy and turn the country away from the West.__Al Jazeera