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By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife reporting from Hungary
BUDAPEST, HUNGARY (BosNewsLife)– Hungarians were expected to return Prime Minister Viktor Orbán to power for another four years in a parliamentary election Sunday that was also expected to boost support for the far-right Jobbik party.
Sunday’s ballot was the first under a new constitution that reduces parliament from 386 to just 199 seats, amid international concerns over the country’s future.
A confident looking prime minister arrived at a primary school-turned-polling station in Hungary’s capital Budapest to cast his ballot with many press photographers looking over his shoulders.
Dubbed ‘Viktator’ by opponents, the 50-year-old populist Viktor Orbán had rows with the European Union and the United States over his perceived autocratic style.
After his Fidesz party won a two-thirds majority in parliament four years ago, he was able to pass a controversial constitution and other legislation that critics said threatened media freedom and the independence of the judiciary, Central Bank and even churches.
International investors also condemned heavy taxes imposed on Hungary’s mostly foreign-owned banks, telecoms and energy firms, and increased state control over the energy sector.
Yet he remained popular with many Hungarians for stabilising public finances and cutting personal income taxes as well as households’ electricity and natural gas bills.
Opinion polls showed his Fidesz party on course for a landslide victory. But with more painful reforms expected, Orbán said every eligible voter should decide on Hungary’s political future.
“I would like to see high turnout because that would allow stronger governing,” Orbán said after casting his ballot. “I hope many voters will participate and whatever government is formed, it can start working …with strong public support.”
Orbán faced a challenge from the left-wing coalition Unity, which sometimes appeared united only in name.
It has been been rocked by political infighting and a corruption scandal.
Additionally the far-right Jobbik party, known for its anti-Semitic and anti-Roma rhetoric, was expected to become the second or third largest political force.
Analysts say Jobbik’s predicted success underscores the expected shift to the far-right in next month’s European Elections.