Hungary is preparing for its first election under its controversial 2012 constitution.
President János Áder on Saturday said the poll would be held this 6 April.
Last year’s new electoral law means roughly half as many seats will be up for grabs: 199.
Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and his Fidesz conservative party are tipped to hold on to power. They triumphed with a two-thirds majority in parliament in the 2010 elections. This let them pass legislation no matter what the objections were from the fractured opposition.
In spite of Brussels stating its concern over populist and nationalist trends in Hungary, Fidesz’s policies have earned it sustained support among its voters.
On the other side of the political fence, the left-wing alliance aims to normalise relations between the EU and Hungary.
With less than three months to campaign in, the combined Socialist Party, one called Together 2014 and another called the Democratic Coalition face a tricky task of convincing the electorate of what they might be worth.
Opinion polls show support for the far-right Jobbik party unwavering at around 17 percent, the level at which it graduated from fringe politics and first entered parliament four years ago. Jobbik’s paramilitary arm, the New Hungarian Guard, have been compared by democracy watchdogs and human rights groups to neo-Nazis.
Analyst Gábor Török told us: “If I weren’t afraid of the expression itself, I’d say it’s a cold civil war election situation, where of course there is no shooting, but what the participants say is like they’re really standing on opposite sides of the barricade.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel last year told the Hungarians openly that EU member states’ concerns over the Hungarian constitution should be taken seriously. Orbán compared German criticism of Hungarian democracy to the Nazi invasion of his country in World War II.
President Áder has set the earliest date possible under the election law, saying the sooner a new government is in, the better it is for Hungary’s access to vital European Union funds.
Budapest correspondent Andrea Hajagos said: “The question is whether the country’s most experienced and most divisive politician gets to govern again or could he be defeated by the left opposition which is forced to unite for the elections by Orbán’s new [first-past-the-post, single round] system.”