Sunday, 23 September, 2018

Interim turnout in Hungary's election hits 68.13 pct

Prime Minister Viktor Orban at his final electoral rally in Hungary Prime Minister Viktor Orban at his final electoral rally in Hungary Credit Darko Vojinovic AP
| 09 April, 2018, 01:24

The rightwing nationalist prime minister projected himself as a savior of Hungary's Christian culture against Muslim migration into Europe an image which resonated with millions of voters, especially in rural areas.

Mr Orban claims the opposition - collaborating with the United Nations, the European Union and wealthy philanthropist George Soros - wants to turn Hungary into an "immigrant country", threatening its security and Christian identity. Orban, Hungary's longest-serving post-communist premier, strongly opposes deeper integration of the bloc.

Data at 16:30 GMT from the National Election Office showed voter turnout of 68% - around nine points higher than at the same point in the 2014 election.

"Figures show that it will be an election with a high voter turnout".

Thousands were still waiting to vote more than an hour after polling sites were set to close.

A young woman queuing up to vote in Budapest said she is hoping for a breath of change after the election, but did not reveal who she was voting for.

Opposition parties have urged Hungarians to vote tactically for the opposition candidate with the best chance to defeat the Fidesz candidate in the 106 individual districts - but it's not clear how much impact that will have.

"Everyone should go to vote because this election determines Hungary's course not for four years but for two generations at least", he told reporters.

The EU has struggled to respond as Orban's government has, in the view of its critics, used its two landslide victories in 2010 and 2014 to erode democratic checks and balances.

If borne out, Mr Orban will likely seize on the results as vindication of his clashes with European Union institutions over his hardline anti-immigration policies and rejection of the EU's refugee resettlement programme, as well as his moves to clamp down on civil society groups. He is also credited with keeping the budget deficit under control, reducing unemployment and some of Hungary's debt, and putting its economy on a growth track.


There are 199 seats in parliament available this election and opposition parties do not want Orban's coalition to be the majority, which could lead the autocratic leader to push through constitutional changes.

On Friday, at his closing campaign rally, Orban vowed to protect his nation from Muslim migrants.

"My little daughter must be my primary concern, to make her future safe".

However, the polls could be unreliable as one-third of voters are undecided and many hide their voting preference.

Instead she said: "Droves of students have registered to vote in Budapest".

In March the government also gave pre-election handouts to millions of families and pensioners.

The centre-left Socialists meanwhile were on 14% in Friday's poll and not thought to pose a threat to Fidesz.

If Orban wins he is expected to carry on with his current economic policies - with income tax cuts and incentives to boost growth.

His business allies are expected to expand their economic domains.

"Voter turnout is at record high", tweeted Tamas Boros, co-director of the Policy Solutions think tank.

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