Polls opened across Hungary early Sunday as voters in the Central European country faced a choice: take a chance on a diverse, Western-looking coalition of opposition parties, or grant nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orban a renewed mandate with a fourth consecutive term in office.
The contest is expected to be the closest since Orban took power in 2010, thanks to Hungary’s six main opposition parties putting aside ideological differences to form a united front against his right-wing Fidesz party.
Recent polls suggest a tight race but give Fidesz a slight lead, making it likely that undecided voters will determine the victor in Sunday’s vote.
Opposition parties and international observers have pointed out structural impediments to defeating Orban by electoral means, highlighting pervasive pro-government bias in the public media, domination of commercial news outlets by Orban allies and a heavily gerrymandered electoral map.
Yet despite what it calls an uneven playing field, the six-party opposition coalition, United For Hungary, has asked voters to support its efforts to introduce a new political culture in Hungary based on pluralistic governance and mended alliances with the EU and NATO.
The coalition’s candidate for prime minister, Peter Marki-Zay, has promised to bring an end to what he alleges is rampant government corruption, and to raise living standards by increasing funding to Hungary’s ailing health care and education systems.
Orban — a fierce critic of immigration, LGBTQ rights and “EU bureaucrats” — has garnered the admiration of right-wing nationalists across Europe and North America. Fox News host Tucker Carlson broadcast from Budapest for a week last summer, where he extolled Orban’s hard-line approach to immigration and the razor wire fence he erected along Hungary’s southern border.
In a leafy district in the Buda hills of Hungary’s capital Budapest, Orban and his wife arrived at a polling place Sunday morning to cast their votes.
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