After a campaign overshadowed by the war in neighboring Ukraine, official results from Hungary’s general election on Sunday showed nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s Fidesz party winning a fourth term in office by a much larger margin than pre-election polls had suggested.
“We have won a great victory — a victory so great you can perhaps see it from the moon and certainly from Brussels,” Orban told a jubilant crowd chanting his name and many of whom 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 judiciary, as well as measures 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 seeking to reverse the “illiberal” revolution that Orban’s Fidesz party has pursued during his 12 years in power.
According to results from the national election office, Fidesz received 53 percent of the vote, compared to 35 percent for the opposition coalition, with 94 percent of votes counted — a result that means 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 went on to say that the opposition had done “everything humanly possible,” but that the campaign had been “an unequal fight” due to the exclusion of him and other anti-Fidesz politicians from state media.
“Abuses” occurred on Sunday, according to Marton Gyongyosi, a member of the EU Parliament from the right-wing Jobbik party, which is part of the opposition coalition, who added, “This will have to be considered when talking about how the results of the elections can be respected.”
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 camps, 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 seen in the 2018 national elections.
The far-right Mi Hazank party also outperformed expectations, crossing the five-percent minimum threshold to enter parliament.
Agnes Kunyik, 56, a Budapest resident, told AFP she had voted for the opposition.
She became visibly emotional as she said of Fidesz, “They have ruined our country, destroyed it.”
However, Ildiko Horvath, 55, one of those who attended Orban’s victory celebration, said that under Fidesz, “Hungary is really moving forward,” and that “on the really important questions like the (Ukraine) war and migrants, he always decides in line with what the majority wants.”
The Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24 cast a long shadow over the campaign. Despite his long-standing friendship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Orban aligned himself diplomatically with EU support for Kyiv.
But at home, Orban has taken a neutral, if not anti-Ukrainian, stance, refusing to allow Ukrainian weapons to pass through Hungarian territory. He portrayed himself as the defender of peace, accusing the opposition of “warmongering.”
“We never had so many opponents,” Orban said in his victory speech, citing “Brussels bureaucrats… the international mainstream media, and finally the Ukrainian president.”
Putin congratulated Orban on his victory and expressed his desire to strengthen ties, according to the Kremlin.
Orban has been singled out for criticism by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy for his reluctance to take a tougher stance 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 polls, posted 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” law prohibiting the portrayal of LGBTQ people in films aimed at children under the age of 18.
The referendum failed due to a lack of valid votes, according to partial results.