By Anita Komuves and Gergely Szakacs
BUDAPEST – Hungary’s nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orban looked set for a fourth consecutive term in Sunday’s election, as voters endorsed his cautious stance over Russia’s war in Ukraine and his campaign for more traditional Christian values.
Preliminary results with 23% of national party list votes counted showed Orban’s Fidesz party leading with 60% of votes versus 29% for a six-party opposition party alliance. Fidesz was also ahead in most single-member constituencies based on early results.
The gap could narrow once big-city constituencies where the opposition has more support are counted.
If confirmed by final results, expected later on Sunday, a comfortable victory could embolden Orban, 58, in his ambition to construct an “illiberal” state which critics say amounts to a subversion of democratic norms.
The Ukraine invasion, which Russia calls a “special military operation” to disarm its neighbour, has forced Orban, one of Europe’s longest-serving leaders, into awkward manoeuvring at home and reinforced opposition leader Peter Marki-Zay’s campaign call to bring Hungary back into the Western sphere of influence.
Still, many older, poorer voters, who have long supported Orban’s conservative social agenda, appeared distrustful of the opposition, which he has said would drag the country into war.
Orban has condemned the Russian invasion and has not vetoed any European Union sanctions against Moscow even though he said he did not agree with them. But he has banned any transport of arms to Ukraine via Hungarian territory, facing criticism from his nationalist allies in Poland.