Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has been re-elected for a third consecutive term. (Reuters: Michael Dalder)
Hungary’s re-elected Prime Minister has declared victory after his campaign focused nearly exclusively on demonising migration and a conspiracy theory.
- Viktor Orban claims victory in the Hungarian election
- Critics fear he will use his third consecutive term to intensify attacks on migration
- The Orban Government has already submitted legislation to close “loopholes” allegedly exploited by asylum-seeker advocates
Viktor Orban said his “decisive” re-election to a third consecutive term and his Fidesz party’s super-majority in parliament was “an opportunity to defend Hungary”.
During his campaign, Mr Orban focused on a conspiracy theory that the European Union, the United Nations and wealthy philanthropist George Soros wanted to turn Hungary into an “immigrant country”, which struck a nerve, especially with rural voters, in Sunday’s election.
Addressing cheering supporters after preliminary results were announced, Mr Orban began a brief speech with the clear message, “we won”.
“We created the opportunity to defend Hungary. A great battle is behind us. We have achieved a decisive victory,” he said.
This win is Mr Orban’s fourth overall. He headed a Fidesz-led coalition government from 1998 to 2002 before returning to power in 2010.
Government influence on the media was palpable in Sunday’s broadcast by state television M1 news channel, where reports highlighting the negative effects of migration dominated the programming.
On Origo.hu, a formerly independent website now owned by government allies, stories promoted Mr Orban while also focusing on migration.
The headlines included: “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”.
Tamas Boros, co-director of the Policy Solutions think tank, said politically, Hungary had been split in two.
“Orban will interpret the victory as an unequivocal authorisation to continue as until now, but even more forcefully,” he said.
“He will feel even less constrained by any limits … as politically there is no genuine resistance to him.”
Critics said they feared Mr Orban would use his third consecutive term and the Fidesz party’s two-thirds control of Hungary’s national legislature to intensify his attacks on migration and to strengthen his command of the country’s centralised power structure.
Hungary’s remaining independent media, the courts that have made numerous rulings the government did not like and a university founded by Hungarian-American billionaire Mr Soros, are believed to be among Mr Orban’s likely targets.
Jobbik party leader to resign
The head of Hungary’s right-wing nationalist Jobbik party said he would keep his promise and resign after the party placed a distance second in the parliamentary election.
Leader Gabor Vona had tried to move Jobbik in a more mainstream conservative direction by expelling or sidelining some of its most radical politicians and abandoning its racist messages.
But the effort did not translate into more votes.
While the party achieved its first win in one of the 106 individual districts, Mr Vona had touted Jobbik as a “government-changing force”.
Jobbik party leader Gabor Vona steered his party away from racist messages. (Reuters: Bernadett Szabo)
The Orban Government has already submitted a “Stop Soros” package of legislation that it would easily be able to pass if Fidesz’s obtains a two-thirds majority in parliament.
Government spokesman Zoltan Kovacs said the bills were designed to close “legal loopholes” allegedly exploited by civic groups that advocate for asylum-seekers.
“So-called NGOs … are helping illegal immigration happen,” Mr Kovacs said.
While Mr Orban’s win was undeniable, the exact size of his margin of victory was not clear early Monday due in part to Hungary’s complex electoral system, in which voters cast ballots for both an individual candidate in their region and another for a party list.
Final election results are expected by April 27.