News / Europe

Hungarians Set to Return Orban to Power in Sunday Vote

A nun exits a voting booth at a polling station in Budapest during the parliamentary elections in Hungary, Sunday, April 6, 2014.
A nun exits a voting booth at a polling station in Budapest during the parliamentary elections in Hungary, Sunday, April 6, 2014.
Reuters
Hungarians were set to return Prime Minister Viktor Orban to power for another four years in a parliamentary election on Sunday that was also expected to further entrench the far-right Jobbik party as a political force.
 
Orban, 50, has had repeated rows with the European Union and foreign investors, particularly over heavy taxes imposed on the country's mostly foreign-owned banks, telecoms and energy firms, and increased state control over the energy sector.
 
But he is popular with many voters for stabilizing public finances and cutting personal income taxes as well as households' electricity and gas bills. Opinion polls show his Fidesz party on course for a landslide victory.
 
“I would like to see high turnout because that would allow stronger governing,” Orban told Reuters after he cast his vote early at a school in the capital.
 
“I hope many voters will go to cast their votes, and whatever government is formed, it can start working ...with strong public support,” he said.
 
Based on opinion polls, two questions remain: whether Orban can retain his two-thirds majority in parliament, which allows him to change the constitution, and whether Jobbik can make a late surge and overtake the leftist opposition to become the country's second biggest political force.
 
A good result for Jobbik, accused by critics of being anti-Semitic and stoking antipathy toward Hungary's Roma minority, could be a harbinger of how other nationalist right-wing parties perform in European Parliament elections next month.
 
Public support for Orban's Fidesz stood at 34 percent a week before the vote in a survey by pollster Ipsos, a leftist alliance led by Socialist party chairman Attila Mesterhazy scored 20 percent and Jobbik was third with 14 percent.
 
The leftist alliance has promised to cut the prices of basic foods, raise pensions and the minimum wage, but its support has faltered ahead of the vote. The Socialists suffered a crushing defeat in the last elections in 2010.
 
Just east of Budapest in the town of Veresegyhaz, members of the local women's choir voted together, dressed in traditional costumes and headscarves, and some of them expressed dissatisfaction with Fidesz.
 
“We had a regime change in 1989 so we don't have to put up with a one-party system any longer, and these four years looked a lot like a one-party system,” Agota Guczky said. “It is high time that other parties get their say in this democracy.”
 
Her son, Csaba Guczky, who was laid off and has not worked in four years, said he would vote for the leftist alliance.
 
“The leftists can bind together such a wide political spectrum that even if I dislike the Socialists there are others there who may be able to do something to make things better,” he said.
 
Far right gains
 
Jobbik leader Gabor Vona told reporters in the eastern Hungarian town of Gyongyos he was certain his party would surprise with its election result.
 
“Our three main themes of living standards, order and the accountability of politicians has struck a nerve with voters, who are most adamant on those three things,” Vona said after he cast his vote in the town in which he was running for parliament.
 
The party has pledged to create jobs, be tough on crime, renegotiate state debt and hold a referendum on EU membership.
 
Pensioner Zoltan Szabo, 67, said even though he liked Jobbik's programme he would vote for Fidesz.
 
“What Fidesz has done in the past four years, I like it a lot,” Szabo said. “They raised my pension by 20,000 forints ($90)! What did the Socialists do? They took it away.”
 
Many voters reject Jobbik for its radical ideas.
 
“My problem with Jobbik is they hate everyone. They hate Jews, they hate Gypsies... And I don't want to vote for hatred,” said Janos Korondi, who just moved back to Hungary from the United States.
 
Investors concerned
 
Investors in Hungary can expect more unpredictable and, for some, hostile policies if Orban wins the election, according to a Reuters poll and sources with knowledge of his intentions.
 
Orban has pledged to stick to his policies if reelected, continuing to cut energy prices and getting rid of foreign currency mortgages that are burdening households. Foreign banks fear this could inflict further losses.
 
More unpredictable policies could weigh on the forint, especially if the central bank - led by a strong ally of Orban's - cuts interest rates further from record lows, against a backdrop of jittery sentiment in global markets.
 
Critics say Orban has used his mandate to curb democratic checks and balances and the freedom of the media, allegations his government rejects.
 
Voting at more than 10,000 polling stations began at 0400 GMT and polls close at 1700 GMT. An unofficial result will be announced on Sunday night.
 
Unlike four years ago, when Hungarians voted in two rounds, Sunday's election will feature a first-past-the-post single round in 106 constituencies, with the number of lawmakers in parliament reduced sharply to 199 from 386.

You May Like

Turkish Public Fears Jihadists More Than Kurds

Turkey facing twin threats of terrorism by Islamic State and PKK Kurdish separatists, says President Erdogan’s ruling AK Party More

Video One Year After Massacre, Iraq’s Yazidis a Broken People

Minority community still recovering from devastating assault by IS militants which spurred massive outrage More

‘Malvertisements’ Undermine Internet Trust

Hackers increasingly prey on users' trust of major websites to delivery malicious software More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Communityi
X
Sharon Behn
August 03, 2015 2:23 PM
A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Community

A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Bangkok Warned It Soon Could Be Submerged

Italy's Venice and America's New Orleans are not the only cities gradually submerging. The nearly ten million residents of the Bangkok urban area now must confront warnings the city could become uninhabitable in a few decades. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Thai capital.
Video

Video Inclusive Gym Gets People With Disabilities in Fitness Spirit

Individuals with special needs are 58 percent more likely to be obese than the general population. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, they also have an increased likelihood of anxiety, depression and social isolation. But a sports club outside Washington wants to make a difference in these people's lives. With Carol Pearson narrating, VOA's June Soh reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Special Olympics Show Competitors' Skill, Determination

Special Olympics competitions will wrap up Saturday in Los Angeles, and the closing ceremony for athletes with intellectual disabilities will be held Sunday night. In a week of competition, athletes have shown what they can do through skill and determination. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Shooter’s Grill: Serving Food with a Touch of the Second Amendment

Shooter's Grill, a restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, attracts visitors from all over the world as well as local patrons. The reason? Waitresses openly carry loaded firearms as they serve food, and customers are welcome to carry them, too. VOA's Enming Liu and Lin Yang paid a visit to Shooter's Grill, and heard different opinions about this unique establishment.
Video

Video Despite Controversy, Business Owner Continues Sale of Confederate Flags

At Cooter’s, a store in rural Sperryville, Virginia, about 120 kilometers west of Washington, D.C., Confederate flags are flying off the shelves. The red, white and blue battle flag, with 13 white stars representing the Confederate states, was carried by southern forces during the U.S. Civil War in the 1860s. The South had seceded from the Union over several key issues of disagreement, including slavery. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs