Hungary's leader claims mandate, dismissing EU concerns

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán won a second term Sunday. He brushed aside international criticism of tilting the playing field rightward against opposition parties.

Laszlo Beliczay / AP
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, leader of the ruling center-right Fidesz party, applauds prior to his victory speech after the parliamentary elections in downtown Budapest, Hungary, on April 6.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán was elected to a second consecutive term on Sunday, amid criticism from international observers that the ruling party “enjoyed an undue advantage” during the campaign.

With 99 percent of the votes processed, the ruling Fidesz party and its coalition partner the Christian Democrats secured 133 of the 199 seats in parliament, just enough for a two-thirds majority.

Fidesz won almost the same percent of parliamentary seats as in 2010. But it garnered just 44 percent of the popular vote this time around, compared with 53 percent  four years ago. It held on to its supermajority because of the new winner-take-all electoral system.

Election monitors from the Organization for Security and Economic Cooperation in Europe criticized the changes to the election law and campaign rules introduced by the government. Political advertising on commercial television was absent, and broadcast media coverage was biased in favor of Fidesz, the OSCE concluded, limiting media access for the opposition.

“The substantial legal changes, the restrictive campaign regulations, biased media coverage, and the blurred separation between party and state, resulted in an undue advantage for the main governing party,” Audrey Glover, head of the mission, said Monday.

Mr. Orbán, however, was unfazed by the charges. “An overwhelming majority was granted to us, so I think there’s nothing to discuss," he said at a press conference. "If experts wish to elaborate on this more, they can do so but it falls outside of my work.”

Orbán asserted that the results of the election mean that Hungarian voters “said yes” to the new measures and laws, including the new Constitution. He also predicted that Hungary’s relationship with the European Union, with which the prime minister has occasionally clashed, “very likely will be in the future as it was in the past," adding that he sees some conflict with the EU as “completely natural."

A clear-cut victory? 

Fidesz won all but 10 of the 106 constituency seats that were decided based on the new voting system. The remaining 93 seats are decided through a party list system based on proportional representation, where Fidesz won 37 seats.

Fidesz’s main rival, a five-party leftist coalition, had a dismal showing, winning 26 percent of the votes and 38 total seats in parliament. And while the far-right Jobbik party came in third place with 20.7 percent and 23 seats in parliament, its showing was higher than in 2010, when Jobbik received 16.7 percent of the votes. Some speculated the party, accused of being anti-Roma and anti-Semitic, may have benefited from the softer image it tried to project to voters during the campaign.

The small green party managed to reach the 5 percent threshold required to stay in parliament.

On Sunday, leaders on the left reiterated their belief that the election was “unfair,” and Socialist head Attila Mesterházy refused to congratulate Orbán.

Voter turnout was 61 percent, down from 64 percent in 2010.

About 63,000 ballots were counted from voters in neighboring countries who recently received Budapest's permission to attain dual citizenship and vote in national elections by mail. About 60,000 of them supported Fidesz.

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