The opposition in Hungary has demanded ministerial resignations from Viktor Orbán’s far-right government in response to allegations that the government targeted journalists, media owners, and opposition political figures as potential targets for invasive Pegasus spyware.

The allegations, made public last week by the Guardian and other members of the Pegasus project consortium, were backed up in a number of cases by Amnesty International’s forensic analysis of mobile devices, which revealed phones had been infected with Pegasus, sold by the Israeli company NSO Group. “At the very least, the minister of justice must resign,” said Gergely Karácsony, the mayor of Budapest and the most likely challenger to Orbán in next spring’s elections, in an interview at Budapest’s city hall on Tuesday.

A protest against the government over the Pegasus scandal drew about 1,000 people on Monday evening. “This scandal demonstrates that we can no longer talk about the rule of law in Hungary,” Anna Donáth, a Hungarian MEP with the opposition party Momentum, told reporters at the rally. “Our demand is for the government to resign.” In cases where national security is at stake, Hungarian law allows the intelligence services to order surveillance with no judicial oversight and only the minister of justice’s signature.

Judit Várga, Hungary’s justice minister, has declined to comment on whether the Hungarian government uses Pegasus, but has stated that “every country needs such tools.” She has not stated what the national security justification for spying on journalists, businesspeople, or politicians could be.

When asked if she would authorize the surveillance of a journalist in an interview earlier this month with Le Monde, a Pegasus project partner, Várga first said it was a “provocation.” Her office later requested that the question and answer be removed from the interview.

The Budapest prosecutor’s office launched an investigation into unauthorized secret information gathering last week. Few expect this to produce tangible results, with opposition figures accusing the government of ignoring the allegations.

On Monday, opposition MPs demanded an emergency meeting of parliament’s national security committee, but four MPs from Orbán’s Fidesz party did not show up, resulting in a lack of quorum. At least five Hungarian journalists were named on a leaked list of numbers chosen by NSO clients ahead of possible surveillance, according to the Pegasus papers consortium, including two from the investigative outlet Direkt 36, a Pegasus project partner. The number of opposition politician György Gemesi, mayor of Gödöll and head of a nationwide mayors’ association, was also on the list.

“He’s been the mayor of a small town for 30 years, and it’s completely unthinkable to me that there would be any legitimate criminal or national security interest in spying on him,” Karácsony, who knows Gemesi well, said.

Karácsony, whose phone number was not included on the leaked list, said the revelations about government surveillance were not surprising. During his mayoral campaign against the Fidesz-backed incumbent in 2019, audio of Karácsony discussing opposition infighting was leaked. He stated that now, when he has sensitive discussions, he does so without phones or laptops present.

The liberal mayor of Budapest is the favorite to win a primary vote, which will be held among a broad coalition of opposition parties seeking to field a united candidate to challenge Orbán in elections next spring. Orbán, who is seeking re-election for a fourth time, has clashed with the EU over the rule of law, corruption, and a recent anti-LGBTQ+ law.

Last week, Orbán announced that the government would hold a referendum on “child protection,” which would include a series of leading questions about sex education and sex changes, in an attempt to sow division and rally Fidesz’s conservative base around a “culture war” on LGBT issues.

Karácsony took part in Saturday’s Budapest Pride march, in which tens of thousands of people marched through the capital, and the rainbow flag is flying outside Budapest’s city hall for Pride month.