Hungary's Orban Declares Victory, Set to Serve Fourth Term as Ukraine Overshadows Campaign

With 90% of votes counted, results showed Orban's Fidesz controlling 135 seats in the 199-member parliament, while the united opposition alliance had 56 seats

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Hungary's nationalist prime minister, Viktor Orban, and his wife Aniko Levai, cast their vote for general election in Budapest, Hungary, on Sunday
Hungary's nationalist prime minister, Viktor Orban, and his wife Aniko Levai, cast their vote for general election in Budapest, Hungary, on SundayCredit: Petr David Josek /AP

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban declared victory in Sunday's parliamentary election, where his ruling Fidesz party was on track for its fourth successive landslide since the nationalist premier came to power in 2010. Preliminary results showed Orban's Fidesz controlling 135 seats in the 199-member parliament, as voters endorsed his cautious stance over Russia's war in Ukraine and his campaign for more traditional Christian values, while the united opposition alliance had 56 seats with over 90% of votes counted.

The comfortable victory will likely embolden Orban, 58, in his ambition to construct an "illiberal" state which critics say amounts to a subversion of democratic norms.

"We have won a tremendous victory," he said. "Such an enormous victory it can be seen from the moon, and certainly from Brussels."

Orbán was alluding to his ongoing conflicts with the European Union. Hungary has been a member of the bloc since 2004.

Péter Márki-Zay, leader of the Hungary in Unity opposition alliance, meanwhile conceded defeat. "But we are here to stay, we are standing up for everyone, we are staying on the heels of power," he said.

The Ukraine invasion, which Russia calls a "special military operation" to disarm its neighbour, has forced Orban, one of Europe's longest-serving leaders, into awkward maneuvering at home and reinforced Marki-Zay's campaign call to bring Hungary back into the Western sphere of influence.

Still, many older, poorer voters, who have long supported Orban's conservative social agenda, appeared distrustful of the opposition, which he has said would drag the country into war. 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.

Márki-Zay, an independent conservative, had called on citizens to vote out the Orbán government in a Facebook video on Sunday morning.

"Let's vote for a better world, a happy Hungary," he said outside his home in the small south-eastern Hungarian town of Hódmezövásárhely, where he has been mayor since 2018.

With billboards, most of the media, state television and radio all under the control of the right-wing premier, the opposition was forced to fight its election campaign predominantly on the streets.

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