Hungary's socialists set to be re-elected

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The Independent Online

Hungary's ruling coalition government was last night on course to win a narrow victory at the polls and become the first administration to be re-elected in the country's post-Communist era.

Analysts predicted that, after yesterday's second round of voting, the coalition parties would win about 205 seats, against 181 for the centre-right opposition bloc.

Following the recent move to the left in Italy, success for Hungary's socialist Prime Minister, Ferenc Gyurcsany, 44, would underline a shift in Europe's political landscape, leaving centre-left parties in control or coalition in 13 out of the EU's 25 member states.

Hungary's electoral campaign has been marked by bitter exchanges, with Mr Gyurcsany's socialists and his centre-right adversaries in the Fidesz party accusing each other of unlawful or unsavoury tactics.

The new government faces a series of tough economic challenges and is under pressure to curb the country's huge budget deficit of 8 per cent of gross domestic product, the highest in the EU.

Mr Gyurcsany's chances improved after the former premier Viktor Orban unexpectedly withdrew as Fidesz's candidate for Prime Minister on 12 April.