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Hungary's right-wing prime minister claims victory in election

Viktor Orban has been outspoken on mass immigration.

Image: Laszlo Balogh via Getty

HUNGARY’S NATIONALIST PRIME Prime Minister Viktor Orban claimed a “historic victory” as his right-wing party took a thumping lead in the country’s key parliamentary election.

With almost 98% of votes counted, Orban’s Fidesz party has won 48.81% of the vote, the National Election Office (NVI) said, surpassing even the expectations of many within Fidesz.

The score represents an improvement on four years ago, and puts the 54-year-old premier on track for a third consecutive term in office — and more possible clashes with Brussels.

Voter turnout had reached 69.26% , up more than seven points on elections in 2014, the NVI said, with several polling stations forced to open late to accommodate the increase.

Addressing flag-waving supporters in Budapest late on Sunday, Orban said the result gave Hungarians “the opportunity to defend themselves and to defend Hungary”.

The crowd cheered as a giant TV screen showed electoral maps of the country almost completely covered in Fidesz’s orange colour.

‘No opposition here’

At end of his speech, Orban led the crowd in singing a song from the country’s 1848 revolution, Long Live Hungarian Freedom.

One supporter, 53-year-old Eva Halasz, said: “Viktor is the only leader for Hungary, this proves he has the nation behind him, there is no-one in this country like him, there is no opposition here.”

Before the vote it had been thought that a surge in voter turnout would favour the opposition Jobbik, a far-right party that has been moving towards the centre, and the centre-left Socialists.

However, with nearly all votes counted, results show Jobbik trailing far behind with 19.67% , the Socialists on 12.42% and the environmentalist LMP party on 6.97%.

Jobbik’s leader Gabor Vona resigned on Sunday night, as he had promised to do if Jobbik didn’t win, and railed against the “lies” and “constant attacks” his party had had to face in the campaign.

 ’Mass immigration rejected’

Orban will likely seize on the results as vindication of his clashes with EU 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.

An Orban victory will also provide a boost for other nationalist politicians and those on the far-right around Europe who look to him as an inspiration.

In his speech Orban himself thanked Jaroslaw Kaczynski, leader of Poland’s governing PiS party, for his support.

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Poland and Hungary see each other as key allies in their battles with EU institutions.

France’s far-right leader Marine Le Pen tweeted her congratulations on Sunday night, saying the “reversal of values and mass immigration promoted by the EU has been rejected once again”.

Dutch far-right leader Geert Wilders was also quick to welcome the “excellent result”.

“These elections have proved that migration is indeed a winning card for Orban’s Fidesz. In the current Hungarian context, migration prevails against all other issues, from corruption to healthcare,” analyst Andras Biro-Nagy from the Policy Solutions think-tank told AFP.

In terms of what a third Fidesz term may hold, Biro-Nagy said “we should take seriously what Orban promised to his opponents [in a speech] on 15 March”.

In that speech, Orban had said he would take unspecified “moral, political and legal” measures against his opponents after the vote, prompting fears of a crackdown on opposition.

© – AFP 2018

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