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Hungarian National Assembly Election - 08 April 2018

Viktor Orban Hungarians turned out in large numbers on Sunday 08 April 2018 for parliamentary elections that would decide whether nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orban wins an expected third consecutive term. Seats allocation is 106 direct mandates in the constituencies + 93 proportional mandates (D'Hondt method). Fidesz was widely tipped to win another term in power, though analysts said the high turnout, especially in opposition-leaning Budapest and other big cities, may help other parties to overcome a mainly first-past-the-post election system which disadvantages the divided opposition. Polls have consistently put Orbans right-wing Fidesz party at least 20 points ahead of its nearest challenger Jobbik, a far-right party that has been moving towards the centre. Jobbik in turn was a few points ahead of the center-left Socialists.

Not only did Orban and Fidesz win a resounding victory, they were set to enjoy a two-thirds majority in parliament. It was Orban's third consecutive election win, and, it seems, also his third victory with a two-thirds majority. Election observers in Hungary have called the vote "free but unfair," saying it favors parties like Fidesz: of the 199 lawmakers, 106 were directly elected. The opposition's only chance against Fidesz, Hungary's lone major party and one with an extremely stable and disciplined camp of voters, was to campaign with joint candidates something they failed to do in many constituencies. As a result, Fidesz's candidates were able to record victories despite opposition candidates together having received more votes overall. In Budapest, for instance, the opposition could have won all 18 constituencies, but they only managed to take 12.

Like Putins Russia, Hungary had become something of a pariah state to many Western Europeans alarmed by its governments increasingly illiberal shift. In light of the fact that elections would be held in April 2018, one can only assume that things will get even worse over the coming months.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban is routinely criticised by his EU partners for curbing fundamental liberties, such as a free press, and weakening the judiciary. But polls suggest the nationalist, anti-migrant leader, who has been in power since 2010, is a shoe-in for a third term in office. Indeed, it is a measure of the Hungarian oppositions weakness that Orbans closest challenger is the far-right, xenophobic Jobbik party.

Hungary's political climate became toxic under Orban. The hateful rhetoric used by the majority of the government's representatives borders on right-wing extremist propaganda and has become a part of everyday life for Hungarians.

Orban is not just against financial speculators and global capitalists that he says are out to get Hungary. Repeated calls for the reinstatement of the death penalty, homophobic slogans and thinly veiled attacks on Roma, who are stigmatized as criminals who don't like to work, all belong to the rhetoric regularly used by Orban and politicians in his ruling government.

By the end fo 2017 Orban and his Fidesz party held much of the political spectrum that was home to Jobbik before 2014 namely, the far right end of it. Orban had successfully robbed Jobbik of almost every one if its issues and had been largely successful in implementing them such as with social policy that lets municipalities use especially drastic legal guidelines that punish the poor to directly discriminate against Roma dependent upon state financial aid.

In 2017, the government launched two campaigns against Soros within the framework of so-called "national consultations." The first campaign used old anti-Semitic tropes to portray Soros as a puppet master as well as the head of an anti-Hungarian conspiracy, under the motto: "We won't let Soros have the last laugh!" In the second campaign, citizens were asked to voice their criticisms of a non-existent Soros plan, in which the billionaire supposedly planned to flood Europe with millions of refugees.

Meanwhile, Jobbik politicians avoid using racist language, and Vona is trying to lead the party toward the center of the political spectrum. Although his plan has been strongly criticized by the party's radical wing, Jobbik has become Hungary's strongest opposition party and Vona hopes to win more voters in the center than he will lose to Fidesz on the far right.

Jobbik experienced the dismantling of democracy and rule of law in Hungary first hand: It seemed that Orban's concerns about Jobbik making a good showing in the April's election have led the State Audit Office to slap a controversial 2 million euro fine on the party for accepting an irregular contribution. The odd thing is: the Audit Office did not even bother to look into an almost identical case involving Fidesz.

Orban amplified a vicious three-year campaign against immigration, the EU and liberal democracy in the run-up to the vote. Polls suggest the fear-mongering is working, and he'll win a third successive term. Fidesz billboards star the challengers to Prime Minister Viktor Orban. Photoshopped around an image of George Soros, they wield bolt cutters. The message is simple: The opposition is conspiring with the Jewish billionaire vilified by Orban and his party to cut down the border fences the government built to halt a flood of illegal migrants from the Middle East intent on annihilating Hungarian and European culture.

Critics, including Hungary's liberal-leaning urban population as well as the EU and UN, accuse Orban of xenophobia and racism. A phantom migrant menace is being used, they say, to distract from chronic problems in health and education and a government-run network of corruption and cronyism. They also denounce Fidesz for clamping down on civil society, doctoring the election system and grabbing control of the judiciary and media.

The governing party's focus on stoking fears of invading migrant hordes has caused the leading opposition party, Jobbik which had been accused of retaining its neo-Nazi roots to move toward the center in recent years.

A recent Ipsos Mori survey showed that health care, poverty and social injustice and corruption were Hungarians biggest worries, while immigration and terrorism ranked low. Three quarters said the country was on the wrong track, and many were leaving in search of opportunity abroad. Hungary's population has shrunk by around 220,000 to 9.8 million in the eight years that Fidesz had been in power.




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