Published: Mon, April 09, 2018
Worldwide | By Victor Meyer

Interim turnout in Hungary's election hits 68.13 pct

Interim turnout in Hungary's election hits 68.13 pct

Hungary's Viktor Orban, a hard-liner on immigration in Europe, pledged to "fight" for his country after casting his vote on Sunday in an election that was expected to give him a third straight term in office. Orban came to power in 2010 and is seeking a third consecutive term.

Following an acrimonious campaign in which the rightwing nationalist prime minister projected himself as a savior of Hungary's Christian culture against Muslim migration into Europe, all opinion polls had put his Fidesz party well ahead.

According to a poll by Zavech research institute published on Friday, Fidesz had 46 percent support among decided voters, while former far-right Jobbik, which has reshaped its image into a more moderate force, had 19 percent. His critics said his stance has fueled xenophobia.

Winning another two-thirds majority would give Orban the chance to boost a new class of politically-connected oligarchs, tighten his grip on institutions such as the courts, and strengthen resistance against countries like France and Germany that are seeking to deepen European Union integration.

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.

High turnout may ultimately also hurt smaller opposition parties, because it would raise the number of votes needed to reach the 5 percent threshold to get into parliament.

A man in the capital, Budapest, said he hopes the ruling party will win.

"We love our country and we are fighting for our country", Orban said.

Orban's strong win could boost other right-wing nationalists in Central Europe, in Poland and in neighboring Austria, and expose cracks in the 28-nation EU.

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

Voting will end on Sunday evening.

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". 199 seats in the Hungarian parliament are up for grabs.

At a final campaign event on Friday in the city of Szekesfehervar, south-west of Budapest, Mr Orban urged his supporters to turn out to vote.

In Hodmezovasarhely, a Fidesz stronghold in southeastern Hungary, voters complaining of graft, cronyism, and intimidation elected an independent in a February mayoral election for the first time in two decades.

Since 400,000 people passed through Hungary in 2015 on their way to Western Europe, Orban has made migration the near-exclusive focus of his government.

But he added that since all parties, including Fidesz, had mobilized intensively, it did not necessarily mean Orban was threatened with defeat.

"Today the freedom, sovereignty and dignity of nations, for you and for us Poles, is tied to Viktor Orban", he said.

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