Hungary's right plays nationalist card in election

Click to follow
HUNGARIANS went to the polls yesterday in an election pitting a former student radical turned populist-right winger against the incumbent Socialist prime minister, Gyula Horn. Both their parties were neck and neck in the opinion polls at around 33 per cent each, writes Adam LeBor.

Viktor Orban, leader of the Young Democrats, and his colleagues once prided themselves on their refusal to deploy the language of nationalist populism but have since lurched to the right. He has threatened to halt the final stages of electricity privatisation and reverse a Bill allowing foreigners to buy land zoned for agricultural use. If either promise was acted on it could shake foreign investors' confidence in Hungary. Preventing foreigners from buying agricultural land would also delay Hungary's entry into the EU.

Hungary is one of central Europe's front-runners for EU and Nato membership. But the election campaign, the third since the collapse of Communism in 1989, has been marred by violence. Bombs have exploded outside the homes of two right-wing politicians. The spate of bombings has even triggered nostalgia among the elderly for the comparative stability of the Communist regime.