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Hungary's Right Wins, Socialists Lose Elections

Election officials in Hungary say the main center-right opposition party Fidesz has defeated the ruling Socialists in Sunday's parliamentary election. Results show a far right party also entered parliament. Outgoing Prime Minister Gordon Bajnai has expressed concerns about his country's political climate.

Thousands of Hungarians celebrated in downtown Budapest when official election results indicated the center right Fidesz party received at least 206 seats of the total 386 in parliament.

A second round of voting was to be held April 25, but Fidesz already got enough votes Sunday to form a government.

It marks a comeback for the 46-year old Viktor Orban, who is expected to become prime minister, again. The charismatic Fidesz leader lost two elections since holding the top government job from 1998 till 2002.

He told supporters that Fidesz' victory indicates people want to give him another chance at a time when the country faces its worst recession in decades.

He says that in 2010, the voters drew a line under an era which has failed and chose unity, order and safety. Orban adds however that he stands before "the biggest task" of his life.

Fidesz defeated the ruling Socialists, who received about 19 percent of the vote.

The Socialists were counting on more support for making independent technocrat Gordon Bajnai prime minister last year, to help Hungary overcome its economic crisis.

The 42-year old businessman and economist successfully steered the country away from bankruptcy for a symbolic monthly salary of 1 forint, less than one U.S. cent. He introduced tough austerity measures and supervised the implementation of a 25-billion dollar international rescue package.

Prime Minister Bajnai told VOA News he fears Hungary's current political climate, marked by far-right extremism, nationalism and political bickering, threatens to undermine future development.

"My advice is that Hungary should continue on the path of common sense policies and forget the deep division in the political arena , the Iron Curtain in the Hungarian political culture," he said.

Mr. Bajnai and other politicians are especially concerned about the far right Movement for a Better Hungary, Jobbik, which has become the third largest political force.

Jobbik leaders are known for making perceived anti-Semitic statements and verbal attacks against Hungary's estimated 800,000 gypsies, also known as Roma.

Yet, Jobbik supporter Zombor Szabo insists his party is working for Hungary's interests.

"Of course there are many racists among voters of Jobbik, who are anti-Semitic and anti-Gypsy. But I don't consider myself one of them," he said. "I am not a nationalist, but I expect...politicians to work for the interests of the country they are working in."

Jobbik has also lashed out at foreigners and multinational companies.

It is not alone.

Former Prime Minister Viktor Orban has told farmers that foreigners will never be able to own agricultural land as long as his government is in power.

Analysts say that if implemented, that pledge could strain relations with the European Union. Free movement of capital is one of the Union's key principles.

Under agreements with the EU, Hungary was allowed to bar land purchases by foreigners until 2011 in an effort to prevent wealthy Europeans buying up cheap land.

While not addressing that issue specifically, Prime Minister Bajnai says he hopes his successor will not bow to nationalism.

"Look at the long term interests of the country and always build political bases in order to support those long term interests of the country, instead of going for short term and populist, promises," he said. "This is the best advise I can give and
that is the success Hungary achieved during the last one year."

For now, Hungarian voters have their eyes on the final election round, in two weeks time.