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Orban proclaims victory in Hungarian elections

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has declared victory in the national elections, claiming a term for a fourth term in power.

In a 10-minute speech to Fidesz party officials and supporters on an election night in Budapest, Mr Orban said it was a “huge victory” for his right-wing party.

“We have won a victory so big that you can see it from the moon, and you can certainly see it from Brussels,” Orban said.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban and his wife, Aniko Levai, cast their ballots in Budapest during the Hungarian parliamentary elections (/Petr David Josek/AP)

As the votes were still being tallied, it became clear that the question was not whether Mr Orban’s Fidesz party would win the election, but by how much.

“The whole world saw tonight in Budapest that Christian-democratic politics, conservative civic politics and patriotic politics won. We are telling Europe that this is not the past, it is the future,” Mr Orban said.

With a quarter of the vote to count, Mr Orban’s Fidesz-led coalition had won 54.5%, while a pro-European opposition coalition, United for Hungary, had almost 34%, according to the report. National Elections Office.

It looked possible that Fidesz would win another constitutional majority, allowing it to continue bringing sweeping changes to the central European nation.

As Fidesz party officials gathered on an election night on the Danube in Budapest, State Secretary Zoltan Kovacs pointed to the participation of so many parties in the elections as a testament to the strength of Hungarian democracy.

“We have heard a lot of nonsense recently about the existence of democracy in Hungary,” Kovacs said. “Hungarian democracy over the past 12 years has not weakened, but grown stronger.”

Election in Hungary
The Hungarian Prime Minister greets enthusiastic supporters (Petr David Josek/AP)

The contest was expected to be the tightest since Mr Orban came to power in 2010, thanks to Hungary’s six main opposition parties putting aside their ideological differences to form a united front against Fidesz. Voters elect lawmakers for the country’s 199-seat parliament.

In a surprise performance, the radical right-wing Our Homeland Movement appears to have garnered more than 6% of the vote, surpassing the 5% threshold needed to win seats in parliament.

Opposition parties and international observers noted structural obstacles to Mr. Orban’s defeat, pointing to pervasive pro-government bias in state-run media, the dominance of commercial news outlets by Orban’s allies and a map heavily gerrymandered election.

Edit Zgut, a political scientist at the Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw, predicted that what seemed like a clear victory for Mr Orban would allow him to go further in an autocratic direction, brushing aside dissenters and capturing new areas. economy.

“Hungary seems to have reached a point of no return,” she said. “The key lesson is that the playing field is so tilted that it has become almost impossible to replace Fidesz in elections.”

The opposition coalition, United for Hungary, asked voters to support a new political culture based on pluralistic governance and broke alliances with EU and NATO allies.

While Mr Orban had previously campaigned on controversial social and cultural issues, he dramatically changed the tone of his campaign after Russia invaded Ukraine in February and has described the election since then as a choice. between peace and stability or war and chaos.

As the opposition called on Hungary to support its beleaguered neighbor and act closely with its EU and NATO partners, Mr Orban, a longtime ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, insisted for Hungary to remain neutral and maintain its close economic ties with Moscow. , including by continuing to import Russian gas and oil on favorable terms.