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Socialists Win First Round of Hungary's Parliamentary Election

Hungary's left-wing coalition led by the Socialists holds a small lead after the first round of the country's parliamentary elections held Sunday. The run-off elections to be held April 23 will decide the outcome.

With crowds chanting his name, the 44-year-old Socialist Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany rushed to party supporters in Budapest to announce an election victory.

"Dear friends, whenever I look at these election figures I can announce that the Socialist Party won the first round of the elections," said Ferenc Gyurcsany.

With nearly all the votes counted the Socialist-led coalition won 43.3 percent of the vote, a slight edge over the center-right Fidesz-Hungarian Civic Union, which won a little over 42 percent.

Another smaller center right party, the Hungarian Democratic Forum, also managed to win seats in parliament, but apparently not enough seats to form a government coalition with Fidesz.

The 42-year-old charismatic Fidesz leader, Viktor Orban, who served as prime minister from 1998 till 2002, told an enthusiastic crowd he does not accept defeat, yet.

He says he would like to remind Hungarians there are still several mandates in dispute. He says, "I see the real possibility for us to win in the second election round on April 23. We have to fight for it and I call for another party rally."

Mr. Gyurcsany and Viktor Orban have major disagreements on how to run the country. The Socialists promote "compassionate capitalism" comparing themselves with the 'New Left' Labor Party of British Prime Minister Tony Blair. The right-of-center Fidesz is favoring economic policies that would favor Hungarian enterprises. In a move that worries foreign investors, Fidesz leader Orban has announced he would renationalize strategic companies, including the Budapest Airport, which was recently sold to British Airports Authority.

Both parties do agree however on tax cuts worth billions of dollars and on more social spending to improve the lives of the poor and the disadvantaged. Economists warn this could increase the country's budget deficit above limits allowed by the European Union.

As a percentage of the Gross Domestic Product, Hungary already has the EU's highest budget deficit.