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Revolution’ in air as actor stumps for Hungary opposition

Revolution' in air as actor stumps for Hungary opposition

DEBRECEN, HUNGARY, May 5 (AFP/APP/DNA): Pounding the campaign trail ahead of European elections, the emerging leader of the opposition to Hungary’s nationalist government has managed to grab the support of a well-known screen actor to help draw crowds.

Ervin Nagy, known from Hungarian films such as the historical horse-racing adventure “Bet on Revenge” and Oscar-nominated drama “On Body and Soul”, is lending celebrity power to Peter Magyar as the politician’s own star rises.

Magyar has drawn tens of thousands of people to his rallies since shooting to prominence in February on the back of a scandal that hit Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

Nagy is set to take to the stage at the latest gathering on Sunday, in Hungary’s third biggest city, Debrecen — a stronghold of Orban’s Fidesz party.

Accusing the government of populism, cronyism and corruption, Magyar’s campaign is raising hopes for a “system change”, the actor said.

The campaign is growing so fast, he had to lend the politician his pick-up truck to stand on for a speech at one spontaneous rally.

“We didn’t have time to get a stage,” said Nagy, 47.

“There’s a revolutionary mood, like in 1956,” he said — a reference to the historic uprising against Hungary’s Soviet-backed communist rulers.

Nagy helped organise Sunday’s rally and plans to appear on stage alongside any other celebrities who are “brave enough” to join.

Magyar, 43 and a self-declared conservative, has led a political group since last month which aims to be “neither right nor left” to challenge Orban.

He is now touring the central European country ahead of EU elections on June 9.

– ‘Dictatorship-lite’ –

Magyar seized the initiative in February when an ally of Orban, Katalin Novak, resigned as president after it was revealed she had pardoned a convicted accomplice of a child abuser.

It was the biggest scandal to hit Orban in his 14 years as premier and sparked the fiercest protests he has yet faced, according to analysts.

In less than three months, Magyar’s TISZA (Respect and Freedom) party has eclipsed the rest of the opposition heading into the European elections.

A recent survey by pollster Median showed the party had 25 percent support.

Nagy says he had not been involved in politics before — but Magyar only took an hour to convince him to join the campaign.

He believes the EU member country under Orban has been turned into a “kind of dictatorship-lite”.

Since returning to power in 2010, Orban, 60, has changed laws to restrict independent media, civil society, arts and culture.

“If someone is defiant, if they go into opposition, or at least criticise the powers that be, there are consequences,” Nagy told AFP.

He says he himself has been blacklisted after making a comment critical of a senior Fidesz member.

One producer was told that their film would not get financing if Nagy was in it, the actor said.

Nagy said Magyar could reach “millions of people who have (so far) preferred to stay away and not participate in the democracy just because they were so apathetic and frustrated” with the current opposition.

“Now the arrival of a sensible, open-minded, determined, brave guy has suddenly galvanised hundreds of thousands of people.”

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