Hungary’s nationalist, pro-Putin Prime Minister Orban wins fourth term by an unexpectedly large margin

Budapest – The official results of Hungary’s parliamentary elections on Sunday showed that nationalist Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s Fidesz party won a fourth term by a much larger margin than pre-election polls suggested, after a campaign that was overshadowed by The War in Neighboring Ukraine.

Addressing a cheering crowd chanting his name, many of whom wore Fidesz’s orange party colour, Orban said: “We have won a big victory – a victory so big you might see it from the moon can and certainly from Brussels.”

The Orban government has repeatedly led confrontations with the European Union, including the castration of the press and the judiciary, and Measures for LGBTQ Community – also subject to a vote on Sunday.

The 58-year-old, already the EU’s longest-serving leader, has been challenged by six united opposition parties seeking to roll back the “illiberal” revolution that Orban’s Fidesz party had pursued for 12 consecutive years in power.

Hungary votes in parliamentary elections
Viktor Orban, Hungary’s Prime Minister, gestures outside the Fidesz campaign headquarters in Budapest, Hungary, April 3, 2022. He scored a resounding electoral victory to win a fourth straight term, overcoming criticism of democratic backsliding, his lukewarm support for war-ravaged Ukraine and close ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Akos Stiller/Bloomberg via Getty Images


But with 94 percent of the votes counted, Fidesz got 53 percent versus 35 percent for the opposition coalition, according to results from the national elections office – a result that means the party will retain its two-thirds majority in parliament.

Addressing supporters late Sunday night, Peter Marki-Zay, 49, the Conservative who tops the opposition list, conceded defeat.

“I will not hide my sadness and my disappointment,” he told them, aggressively accusing Fidesz of waging a campaign of “hate and lies”.

He added that the opposition had done “everything humanly possible” but that the campaign had been “an unequal struggle” as he and other anti-Fidesz politicians had been all but banned from the state media.

Marton Gyongyosi, an MEP from the right-wing Jobbik party, which is part of the opposition coalition, told AFP on Sunday that “abuses” had taken place, adding: “This has to be taken into account when talking about how the results of the elections can be adhered to.”

Orban has dismissed such complaints, insisting the vote was fair.

Hungary holds parliamentary elections
A woman carries the flag of the European Union after opposition candidate for Prime Minister Peter Marki-Zay on March 3.

MARTON MONUS / REUTERS


For the first time, more than 200 international observers watched the election in Hungary, an EU member, along with thousands of local volunteers from both camps.

Voter turnout reached 68.69 percent, almost reaching the record turnout of the last national election in 2018.

The right-wing extremist party Mi Hazank also exceeded expectations and will enter parliament after exceeding the minimum threshold of five percent.

Agnes Kunyik, 56, who lives in Budapest, told AFP news agency that she supported the opposition.

“They ruined our country, destroyed it,” she said of Fidesz, becoming visibly emotional.

But one of those who attended Orban’s victory celebration, 55-year-old Ildiko Horvath, said that under Fidesz “Hungary is really making progress,” adding: “On the really important issues like the (Ukraine) war and migrants , he always decides according to what the majority wants.”

Russia’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine cast a long shadow over the campaign.

Diplomatically, Orban joined the EU in supporting Kyiv, despite his longstanding closeness to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

But at home, Orban has maintained a neutral and at times even anti-Ukrainian tone, refusing to let arms for Ukraine through Hungarian territory.

He posed as a protector of stability and accused the opposition of “warmongering”.

“We’ve never had so many opponents,” Orban said in his victory speech, reeling off a list that included “Brussels bureaucrats…the international mainstream media and finally the Ukrainian president.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has criticized Orban for his reluctance to take a tougher stance on Russia.

French and Italian far-right leaders Marine Le Pen and Matteo Salvini were quick to offer their congratulations on Sunday.

Le Pen, who herself is gaining momentum in polls ahead of the first round of France’s presidential election next week, posted a picture of herself shaking hands with Orban and captioned it, “When the people vote, the people win!”

As well as electing MPs, Hungarians voted in a referendum aimed at gaining support for what Fidesz calls a “child protection law” that bans the portrayal of LGBTQ people by under-18s.

Regina, 25, from Budapest, who declined to give her last name, told AFP news agency she spoiled her vote in the “twisted” referendum that portrayed LGBTQ Hungary as an “enemy”.

Partial results showed that the referendum had failed because not enough valid votes had been cast.

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