Monday, 23 July, 2018

Hungarians go to polls in 2018 parliamentary elections

04_06_Hungary_chicken Voters wait in long lines as Hungary chooses next government
Charlie Simmons | 09 April, 2018, 01:05

With 69% of the votes counted, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and his party have taken an early lead Sunday in the parliamentary election, according to the country's National Election Office.

Orban is seeking his third consecutive term and fourth overall since 1998.

After an acrimonious campaign in which Orban projected himself as a savior of Hungary's Christian culture against Muslim migration into Europe, all opinion polls put his Fidesz party well ahead.

The strongest opposition party is the formerly far-right Jobbik, which has recast its image as a more moderate nationalist force. She said young people are rejecting the authoritarian government and her 2 daughters have left Hungary.

On a visit to Budapest on Friday, April 6, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, leader of Poland's governing PiS party, also gave Orban his endorsement.

Polling stations throughout Hungary have officially closed, but authorities have said they are allowing the last few voters who lined up before the 7 p.m. deadline (1700 UTC) to cast their vote.

"We are convinced that high turnout definitely reflects. that people want a change in government", Socialist spokeswoman Bernadett Budai was quoted as saying by national news agency MTI.

The election produced a turnout of around 70 percent, exceeding the past three elections. In Hungary's complex electoral system, voters cast two ballots - one for a candidate in their voting district and another for a party list.

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Heartened by a recent poll showing more Hungarians would prefer for Orban to go than to stay, the opposition has shifted its focus from coordination to get-out-the-vote campaigns. 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.

Vona's Jobbik party started out as xenophobic group well known for its anti-Semitic views.

Tamas Boros of the Policy Solutions think-tank says the high voter figures mean either "overwhelming support" for Prime Minister Viktor Orban's severe anti-migrant policies or the end of his populist, right-wing Fidesz party's omnipotence.

Even if Fidesz does gain its expected parliamentary majority, analysts will be watching to see whether it falls short of the two-thirds "supermajority" that has enabled it to pass some of its most controversial bills.

Orban and his wife Aniko Levai voted at a polling station in a school in a Budapest suburb.

He says "the European Union is not in Brussels".

But he's unlikely to repeat the landslide wins of the past two elections as a resurgent - if still divided - opposition has sought to capitalize on widespread claims of cronyism and intimidation.

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