General elections kick off in Hungary

by Garry Watts April 9, 2018, 0:18
General elections kick off in Hungary

However due to the unexpected voter turnout today, those still caught queueing after 7pm, will be able to cast their vote, the National Election Office has confirmed.

Analysts say the high turnout, especially in opposition-leaning Budapest and other big cities, may help other parties to overcome a mainly first-past-the-post election system which disadvantages the divided opposition.

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán's ruling Fidesz party has pointed to the high turnout as a sign that Hungarian democracy is healthy, but the increased turnout could give Orbán something to worry about: numerous voters waiting in line in Budapest were young, and young, city-dwelling Hungarians do not tend to support the prime minister. As Radio Liberty writes, according to official data, as of 15:00 local time, more than 53.6% of voters voted - this is the highest turnout rate for this hour since 2002.

Early in the day, voter turnout was the highest since 1998. Turnout in the 2014 vote was 61.7%. "The Hungarian political landscape will dramatically change today".

Polls officially closed at 7 p.m., but anyone waiting in line at that time has the right to vote and could therefore still cast their ballot. The opposition Socialist Party urged authorities to "at least distribute water" in districts where voters were waiting in line, sometimes for hours.

It is known that about 8.3 million people have the right to vote in the elections in Hungary.

There are 199 seats in parliament available this election and opposition parties do not want Orban's coalition to be the majority, which could lead the autocratic leader to push through constitutional changes.

Vona said: "I feel a surprise and a Jobbik breakthrough can be expected in the election".

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Gabor Vona said Sunday he would resign and put his fate in the hands of his party if they don't win but plans to remain in politics nonetheless.

In the past few years, Vona, who has been party chairman since 2006, has pushed the party to abandon its frequently anti-Roma and anti-Semitic views and toward more a mainstream conservative direction.

"We are celebrating democracy and it seems like this feast will be handsome because many of us are taking part", said Gergely Karacsony, the leading candidate of the left-wing Socialist and Dialogue parties.

Uncertainties about Orban's expected margin of victory are caused by Hungary's complex electoral system in which voters cast two ballots, one for an individual candidate in their region and another for a party list.

Voting will end on Sunday evening.

Orban claims that the opposition - collaborating with the United Nations, the European Union and wealthy philanthropist George Soros - wants to turn Hungary into an "immigrant country", threatening its security and Christian identity. "The EU is in Berlin, in Budapest, in Prague and in Bucharest".

His anti-immigration measures and tough rhetoric have seen him clash with the European Union in the past.

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