Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban has claimed victory and looks set for a fourth term in office, with his Fidesz party on course to win the country’s elections.
Thanks to Hungary’s six main opposition parties putting aside their ideological differences to form a united front against the ruling party, the contest was forecast to be the closest since Mr Orban took power in 2010.
But with 91 per cent of votes counted, the Fidesz-led coalition had won 53 per cent, while the pro-European opposition coalition, United for Hungary, had just over 34 per cent, according to the National Election Office.
In a 10-minute speech to Fidesz officials and supporters at a party election night event in Budapest, Mr Orban addressed a crowd cheering “Viktor!” and declared it was a “huge victory” for his party. “We won a victory so big that you can see it from the moon, and you can certainly see it from Brussels,” Mr Orban said.
“The whole world has seen tonight in Budapest that Christian democratic politics, conservative civic politics and patriotic politics have won. We are telling Europe that this is not the past, this is the future.”
Zoltan Kovacs, Mr Orban’s state secretary, said: “We have heard a lot of nonsense recently about whether there is democracy in Hungary. Hungarian democracy in the last 12 years has not weakened, but been strengthened.”
If confirmed by final results, a comfortable victory could embolden Mr Orban, 58, in his ambition to construct an “illiberal” state which critics say amounts to a subversion of democratic norms.
The Ukraine invasion, which Russia calls a “special military operation” to disarm its neighbour, has forced Mr Orban, one of Europe’s longest-serving leaders, into awkward manoeuvring at home and reinforced opposition leader Peter Marki-Zay’s campaign call to bring Hungary back into the western sphere of influence.
Still, many older, poorer voters, who have long supported Mr Orban’s conservative social agenda, appeared distrustful of the opposition, which he has said would drag the country into war.
Mr Orban has condemned the Russian invasion and has not vetoed any European Union sanctions against Moscow even though he said he did not agree with them.
But he has banned any transport of arms to Ukraine via Hungarian territory, facing criticism from his nationalist allies in Poland.
Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky on Saturday described the Hungarian leader as being out of touch with the rest of Europe, which has united to condemn Vladimir Putin.
“He is virtually the only one in Europe to openly support Mr Putin,” Mr Zelensky said.
While speaking to supporters on Sunday, Mr Orban singled out Mr Zelensky as part of the “overwhelming force” that he said his party had struggled against in the election — “the left at home, the international left all around, the Brussels bureaucrats, the Soros empire with all its money, the international mainstream media, and in the end, even the Ukrainian president”.
A fierce critic of immigration, LGBT+ rights and “EU bureaucrats”, Mr Orban has garnered admiration from many right-wing nationalists across Europe and North America.
In addition the parliamentary election, a referendum on LGBT+ issues was being held on Sunday. The questions pertained to sex education programmes in schools and the availability to children of information about sex reassignment.
The Organisation For Security and Cooperation in Europe sent a full observation mission to Hungary to monitor Sunday’s election, only the second time it has done so in an EU nation.
Additional reporting by Reuters and the Associated Press
Join our commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies