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4/9/2018 2:35:03 PM

Viktor Orban wins third term in Hungary

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban won a third straight term in power in Sunday elections after his anti-immigration campaign message secured a strong majority for his party in parliament, granting him two-thirds of seats based on preliminary results.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban addresses the supporters after the announcement of the partial results of parliamentary election in Budapest, Hungary, April 8, 2018.(REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger)

The rightwing nationalist prime minister projected himself as a savior of Hungary’s Christian culture against Muslim migration into Europe, an image which resonated with millions of voters, especially in rural areas.

“We have won, Hungary has won a great victory,” a jubilant Orban told a large crowd of cheering supporters near the Danube river in Budapest.

“There is a big battle behind us, we have won a crucial victory, giving ourself a chance to defend Hungary.”

According to preliminary results with 93 percent of votes counted, National Election Office data projected Fidesz to win 133 seats, a tight two-thirds majority in the 199-seat parliament. Nationalist Jobbik was projected to win 26 seats, while the Socialists were projected as third with 20 lawmakers.

Two smaller leftist parties, DK and LMP, won nine and eight seats respectively.

That means Orban could have a two-thirds majority for a third time, and powers to change constitutional laws. The EU has struggled to respond as Orban’s government has, in the view of its critics, used its two landslide victories in 2010 and 2014 to erode democratic checks and balances.

The victory could embolden Orban to put more muscle into a Central European alliance against the European Union’s migration policies. Orban, Hungary’s longest-serving post-communist premier, opposes deeper integration of the bloc and - teaming up with Poland - has been a fierce critique of Brussels’ policies.

He expressed gratitude to Poland’s leaders for their backing ahead of the vote.

French far-right leader Marine Le Pen, president of the National Front, was the first to congratulate Orban.

“Great and clear victory for Viktor Orban in Hungary: reversal of values and mass immigration as promoted by the EU are rejected again. Nationalists could win a majority in Europe at the next European elections in 2019,” Le Pen tweeted.

MIGRATION “LIKE RUST”

Orban’s strong win could boost other right-wing nationalists in Central Europe, in Poland and in neighboring Austria, and expose cracks in the 28-nation EU.

Orban, 54, has curbed the powers of the constitutional court, increased control of the media and appointed loyalists to key positions.

He is credited with keeping the budget deficit under control, reducing unemployment and some of Hungary’s debt, and putting its economy on a growth track.

On Friday, at his closing campaign rally, he vowed to protect his nation from Muslim migrants, saying: “Migration is like rust that slowly but surely would consume Hungary.”

The anti-immigration campaign has gone down well with many of the roughly two million core voters of Fidesz.

Orban is expected to continue his economic policies, with income tax cuts and incentives to boost growth, analysts have said.

His business allies are expected to expand their economic domains. Businessmen close to Fidesz have acquired stakes in major industries like banking, energy, construction and tourism, profiting from EU funds./.

VNF/Reuters  
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