Monday, 23 July, 2018

Orban projected to hold majority in key Hungary vote

04_06_two-tailed dog Voters wait in long lines as Hungary chooses next government
Gerardo Duncan | 09 April, 2018, 01:23

Hungarians are deciding whether to give Prime Minister Viktor Orban another four-year term in parliamentary elections, where he's facing a resurgent opposition that's hoping to unseat the poster child of Europe's populist movement.

While some parties have agreed to withdraw candidates to avoid knocking each other out in key, winner-take-all battleground districts, the array of Fidesz opponents, which include a former far-right outfit, socialists and greens, are mostly fighting their own corners. But the fate of the 199 parliamentary seats at stake in the election is hard to predict because of the higher-than-expected turnout.

"Hungarian democracy is strong", Gergely Gulyas, the parliament faction leader for Fidesz, said. Opposition parties are keen to make sure Mr Orban's bloc does not sweep to a super-majority in which the autocratic leader could easily push through constitutional changes.

Mr Orban claims the opposition - collaborating with the United Nations, the European Union and wealthy philanthropist George Soros - wants to turn Hungary into an "immigrant country", threatening its security and Christian identity.

Long lines of voters were reported also at the Hungarian embassies in London and Paris.

Figures from Hungary's National Election Office show that voters are turning out in very high numbers for the country's parliamentary election.

Turnout at 6:30 p.m. - half an hour before official closing time - stood at 68.13 percent.

Pollsters think a high turnout could benefit the opposition. "The Hungarian political landscape will dramatically change today".

Jobbik's Mr Vona urged his supporters not to become complacent.

The election produced a turnout of around 70 percent, exceeding the past three elections. 'This is when all those who want a change of government. ask all those who have yet to vote to by all means go and vote'.

Speaking at a recent campaign rally, Orban accused the European Union of "trying to take away our country". Steps included passing a new constitution over opposition protests, a crackdown on civil society groups, stacking state institutions with party loyalists and using the government's power to dominate media.

While Fidesz led all opinion polls before the vote, there is a small chance that the fragmented opposition could strip Fidesz of its parliamentary majority if voters frustrated with Orban's policies choose tactical voting in the 106 constituencies. It has been campaigning on an anti-corruption agenda and urged higher wages to lure back hundreds of thousands of Hungarians who have left Hungary for western Europe.

"Today will decide whether Hungary becomes an emigrant country or not - and I wouldn't like Hungary to be an emigrant country", Vona said.

Uncertainties about Orban's expected margin of victory are due in part to Hungary's complex electoral system, in which voters cast ballots for both an individual candidate in their region and another for a party list.

But he added that since all parties, including Fidesz, had mobilized intensively, it did not necessarily mean Orban was threatened with defeat.

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