In Hungary, the stage is set for a fierce second round in the country’s parliamentary election. With 99 percent of papers counted after weekend polls, the ruling Socialists of Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany are ahead with about 43.3 percent of the vote.
Former Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s opposition conservative Fidesz party edged ahead initially due to increased support in rural areas, but is now trailing behind on 42 percent. Smaller parties the Free Democrats and the Hungarian Democratic Forum have crossed the five percent threshold needed to secure seats in parliament. The presence of the Democratic Forum in any future parliament could complicate negotiations about forming a ruling coalition. The party has recently distanced itself from Orban’s Fidesz. The new government will have to grapple with a growing budget deficit, rising unemployment and much needed reforms of the health and education sectors. The second round is scheduled for April 23.