Tuesday, 23 October, 2018

Hungarian Prime Minister Expected to Win Third Successive Term

Prime Minister Viktor Orban at his final electoral rally in Hungary Prime Minister Viktor Orban at his final electoral rally in Hungary Credit Darko Vojinovic AP
Ebony Burgess | 09 April, 2018, 01:24

He has transformed Fidesz from a liberal party formed in the 1980s to a right-wing populist outfit, which has campaigned this election on an anti-immigration platform.

The autocratic Orban has campaigned heavily on his unyielding anti-migration policies, though voters say they are more concerned with poverty, growing government corruption and the country's underfunded health care system.

Mr Orban is an avowed Eurosceptic who opposes further European Union integration.

Data at 16:30 GMT from the National Election Office showed voter turnout of 68% - around nine points higher than at the same point in the 2014 election.

The election produced a turnout of around 70 percent, exceeding the past three elections.

While voters were no longer allowed to join queues at polling stations as of 1700 GMT, those already in line will be allowed to cast their ballots, a process that can take hours at the busiest polling stations.

Gabor Vona said Sunday he would resign and put his fate in the hands of his party if they don't win but plans to remain in politics nonetheless.

Opposition parties have urged Hungarians to vote tactically for the opposition candidate with the best chance to defeat the Fidesz candidate in the 106 individual districts - but it's not clear how much impact that will have.

A landslide win would make Orban feel vindicated in his decision to run a single-issue campaign, arguing migration poses a security threat.

Meanwhile, Jobbik leader Gabor Vona cast his ballot in the northeastern town of Gyongyos, saying that the result would "determine the fate of Hungary not just for four years but. for two generations".

The EU has struggled to respond as Orban's government has used its two landslide victories in 2010 and 2014 to erode democratic checks and balances, by curbing the powers of the constitutional court, controlling the media and appointing loyalists to key positions.

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Orban accuses Soros and the organisations he funds of promoting mass Muslim and African immigration into Europe in order to undermine its Christian identity.

Orban is credited with keeping the budget deficit under control, reducing unemployment and some of Hungary's debt, and putting its economy on a growth track.

On Friday, at his closing campaign rally, Orban vowed to protect his nation from Muslim migrants.

The fierce anti-immigrant campaign has gone down well with around two million core voters of Fidesz.

"My little daughter must be my primary concern, to make her future safe".

In March the government also gave pre-election handouts to millions of families and pensioners. "Safety is first", said Julia Scharle, 27, holding her child outside the polling station where Orban cast his vote. The Socialists came in third with 14 percent.

However, one-third of voters were undecided.

Despite being tipped to take two-thirds of the 199 parliamentary seats for a third time only months ago, ruling party officials have said that now appears out of reach.

If he wins, as is likely, Mr Orban has promised to cut income tax and pass pro-growth economic policies. Businessmen close to Fidesz have acquired stakes in major industries like banking, energy, construction, and tourism, profiting from European Union funds.

Rivals say that leaves open the possibility of an upset and are urging voters to turn out in record numbers.

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