Published: Mon, April 09, 2018
Worldwide | By Lisa Hogan

Hungary's Orban seeks third term in keenly-watched poll

Hungary's Orban seeks third term in keenly-watched poll

Opposition leaders hope a large turnout improves their chances against Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who is seeking his third consecutive term and fourth overall since 1998 in Sunday's vote.

Orban's election campaign focused on his staunch anti-migration policies despite opinion polls suggesting that many Hungarians are actually more anxious about other social concerns such as poverty, corruption and improving funding for the country's ailing health care system.

Long lines of voters were reported at the Hungarian embassies in London and Paris.

"Voter turnout is at record high", tweeted Tamas Boros, co-director of the Policy Solutions think tank.

Some 8 million voters cast their votes in more than 10,000 polling stations from 6 am (0400 GMT) local time until 7 pm (1700 GMT).

"Only a dramatic outcome of the election would force a significant shift in the direction of policymaking", Barclays said in a note.

Hungarian election officials say voter turnout in the country's parliamentary election 90 minutes before polls close has already exceeded the total turnout for the 2014 elections. "Safety is first", said Julia Scharle, 27, holding her child outside the polling station where Orban cast his vote.

Meanwhile, Jobbik leader Gabor Vona cast his ballot in the northeastern town of Gyongyos, saying that the result would "determine the fate of Hungary not just for four years but. for two generations".

Interim data at 1630 GMT showed voter turnout at 68.13 percent, exceeding final turnout in the past three elections. His critics said his stance has fueled xenophobia.

"This is when all those who want a change of government ... ask all those who have yet to vote to by all means go and vote". He claims that the opposition is collaborating with the United Nations, the European Union and wealthy philanthropist George Soros to turn Hungary into an "immigrant country", threatening its security and Christian identity.

The election campaign in Hungary has been dominated by one issue, immigration.

On Origo.hu, a formerly independent website now owned by government allies, stories promoted Orban while also focusing on migration with headlines like "Migrant gangs fought in England", "They can't stand it anymore in Sweden: They've had enough of migrants", and "A migrant in underpants beat a German retiree half to death". It has been campaigning on an anti-corruption agenda and urged higher wages to lure back hundreds of thousands of Hungarians who had left Hungary to earn a better living in western Europe.

"Today will decide whether Hungary becomes an emigrant country or not - and I wouldn't like Hungary to be an emigrant country", Mr Vona said.

Orban told reporters after casting his ballot that he is fighting for the future of his beloved country.

Attention is focused on how much support the opposition bloc can win.

Most of the 199 parliamentary seats, 106, will be decided in voting districts, while 93 will be distributed based on party lists.

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