Viktor Orban looked set for re-election for a fourth consecutive and fifth overall term as Hungary’s prime minister after taking a decisive majority on Sunday in the central European country with more than half of the votes counted.
The result counts as a major surprise after surveys had predicted ruling party and opposition to be within a few percentage points of one another. The last poll, published on Saturday, had put Orban’s Fidesz party and the opposition neck and neck on 47 per cent each among those certain to vote.
The hardline nationalist Mi Hazank (Our Homeland) movement looks set to enter parliament with 6.5 per cent of the vote according to the count so far. The party broke off from the former far-right Jobbik group in 2018 after it transformed itself into a centrist group.
Orban, a populist conservative, has held power for 12 years, becoming the EU’s longest-serving leader. He has extended his control over most walks of life on the way to forming a self-styled “illiberal democracy” in which checks and balances have been weakened and the premier has used his associates to form a new business elite.
He has locked horns with the European Union over an erosion of democratic standards and developed cordial relations with Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, while Hungary and Ukraine have differed for years over minority rights.
Putin’s invasion of Ukraine had looked to have turned Orban’s close ties with the Kremlin into a political liability but the prime minister stood by his proclaimed neutrality even as domestic and international criticism mounted for him to take a moral stand with his western allies against Russia and for Ukraine.
“This was a prime minister election more than a parliament election as Viktor Orban’s high popularity ratings are reflected in the overall result,” said Agoston Mraz of the pro-Orban Nezopont Institute think-tank in Budapest.
For a decade the fragmented opposition has been unable to tackle Orban, who…
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