Hungary’s pro-Putin prime minister has declared victory in the country’s national elections, claiming a mandate for a fourth consecutive term in power.
With just 43% of votes tallied, right-wing Viktor Orban’s Fidesz-led coalition had won 57% of the vote while a pro-European opposition coalition, United for Hungary, had 31%, according to the National Election Office.
Addressing Fidesz party officials and supporters, Mr Orban said: “We won a victory so big that you can see it from the moon, and you can certainly see it from Brussels.”
Voters were electing lawmakers to the country’s 199-seat parliament, with the contest expected to be the closest since Mr Orban took power in 2010.
The country’s six main opposition parties had formed a united front against Fidesz in a bid to seize power.
The United For Hungary coalition asked voters to support a new political culture focused on mended alliances with the country’s EU and NATO allies.
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Originally, Mr Orban had based his campaign on divisive social and cultural issues, but he changed his message after the war in Ukraine began.
Since then, he has portrayed the election as a choice between peace and stability or war and chaos.
The opposition has called for Hungary to support Ukraine and act in step with the EU and NATO, while Mr Orban has insisted that Hungary remain neutral and maintain its close economic ties with Moscow.
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The United For Hungary coalition’s candidate for prime minister, Peter Marki-Zay, had promised to bring an end to what he alleges is rampant government corruption. He also pledged to raise living standards by increasing funding to the country’s ailing health care and education systems.
After polls closed, he thanked all the Hungarians who voted and the more than 20,000 volunteer ballot counters, that opposition parties assigned to polling places across the country.
“I express my gratitude to the civilians who spent the whole day checking the cleanliness of the election and are now starting the count,” Mr Marki-Zay wrote.
Concerns had been raised about the election, and the Organisation For Security and Cooperation in Europe sent a full observation mission to the country – marking only the second time it has done so in an EU country.