After a campaign overshadowed by the war in neighboring Ukraine, nationalist Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s Fidesz party was shown to have won a fourth term in government by a far larger majority than pre-election polls had projected.
“We have won a big triumph – a win so great you can probably see it from the moon and certainly from Brussels,” Orban told an ecstatic audience screaming his name and many of them were dressed in Fidesz’s orange party colors.
Orban’s government has been at odds with the European Union on a number of issues, including the muzzling of the press and courts, as well as legislation aimed at the LGBTQ community, which are up for a vote on Sunday.
The 58-year-old, who is already the EU’s longest-serving leader, was challenged by a coalition of six opposition parties attempting to reverse the “illiberal” revolution that Orban’s Fidesz party has pursued during his 12 years in power.
According to figures from the national election office, Fidesz had 53 percent of the vote, compared to 35 percent for the opposition coalition, with 94 percent of votes counted – a number that ensures the party will keep its two-thirds majority in parliament.
Late Sunday evening, Peter Marki-Zay, the conservative leader of the opposition list, addressed supporters and admitted defeat.
He warned them, “I will not hide my sadness and disappointment,” accusing Fidesz of leading a “hate and lies” campaign.
He went on to say that the opposition had done “all humanly possible,” but that the campaign had been “an unfair fight” due to the exclusion of him and other anti-Fidesz lawmakers from state media.
“Abuses” occurred on Sunday, according to MEP Marton Gyongyosi of the right-wing Jobbik party, which is part of the opposition alliance, who added: “This will have to be addressed when talking about how the results of the elections can be accepted.”
Orban has dismissed such criticisms, insisting that the election was free and fair.
More than 200 international observers, as well as thousands of domestic volunteers from both sides, watched the election in Hungary, an EU member, for the first time.
The turnout was 68.69 percent, almost identical to the previous high of 68.69 percent achieved in the 2018 national elections.
The far-right Mi Hazank party also outperformed predictions, crossing the five-percent minimal barrier to enter parliament.
Agnes Kunyik, 56, a Budapest resident, told AFP she had voted for the opposition.
She became obviously agitated as she declared of Fidesz, “They have ruined our country, destroyed it.”
However, Ildiko Horvath, 55, one of those who attended Orban’s victory party, claimed that under Fidesz, “Hungary is truly moving forward,” adding, “On the really significant topics like the (Ukraine) war and migrants, he always decides in line with what the majority wants.”
The Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24 threw a lengthy shadow over the campaign.
Despite his long-standing friendship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Orban aligned himself diplomatically with EU backing for Kyiv.
But at home, Orban has taken a neutral, if not anti-Ukrainian, stance, refusing to allow Ukrainian armaments to pass through Hungarian territory.
He portrayed himself as the defender of peace, accusing the opponents of “warmongering.”
“We never had so many opponents,” Orban stated in his victory address, citing “Brussels bureaucrats… the worldwide mainstream media, and finally the Ukrainian president.”
President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky has singled out Orban for criticism over his unwillingness to adopt a harsher position against Russia.
On Sunday, far-right leaders Marine Le Pen of France and Matteo Salvini of Italy congratulated each other.
Before the first round of presidential elections in France next week, Le Pen, who is gaining ground in surveys, released a photo of herself shaking hands with Orban with the caption: “When the people vote, the people win!”
In addition to electing MPs, Hungarians voted in a referendum to elicit support for what Fidesz calls a “child protection” bill prohibiting the portrayal of LGBTQ individuals in films aimed at children under the age of 18.
Regina, a 25-year-old Budapest resident who declined to give her last name, told AFP she spoiled her ballot in the “twisted” referendum, which she claimed presented LGBTQ Hungarians as “enemies.”
The referendum failed due to a lack of valid votes, according to partial findings.