BUDAPEST — Hungarians went to the polls Sunday in a pivotal election widely seen as a reflection on the state of democracy in the eastern periphery of the European Union. In a member state often seen as an ascendant autocracy, turnout soared as voters endured long lines to have their say on the future of their country.
The reelection of Prime Minister Viktor Orban and his right-wing Fidesz party is almost certain: The question is whether he can pull off a two-thirds supermajority in the Hungarian parliament, a legislative carte blanche that in the past has allowed him to enact drastic changes to the country’s constitution, attempt to influence the judiciary and crackdown on his critics.
A high turnout could spell trouble for Orban’s grip on power. Even in gerrymandered districts, more votes for opposition candidates will be added to party totals, which could then undermine the presence of Fidesz in parliament. Virtually all polls suggest that Orban will remain as the head of the government, but political analysts are uncertain as to the meaning of Sunday's high turnout.
Early indications suggested that voter participation will be large throughout Sunday. By midday, turnout was nearly 30 percent, compared with national voting bureau totals of 25 percent in 2010 and 23 percent in 2014, Orban’s previous wins.
Critics were out in droves to undermine what they see as the hegemony of Fidesz, which holds 114 of 199 seats in parliament, seats that derive from an electoral map Orban’s administration drew in 2011.
For some voters — even those who saw no viable alternative — the point was to limit the party’s power by any available means. To that end, this election — compared with Orban’s victories in 2010 and 2014 — is widely seen as a battle for the future of the country’s democratic fiber.
“Have you been living in a cave? You know the stakes, you know what’s happening in Hungary. I’m voting because I’m angry,” said a 42-year-old sales representative who would give his name only as Adam.
“It’s the corruption. In other countries, when there’s stories like this that come out, there is at least a kind of shame, a kind of immediate dismissal,” Adam said. “Here they don’t even bother with that. They know they are untouchable.”
Orban, too, has emphasized the importance of this year’s election.
After casting his ballot early Sunday in an affluent district of Buda — on the western side of the Danube river — he told reporters that he would also take part in his party’s get-out-the vote operation. “What’s at stake is Hungary’s future,” he said.
Gabor Csorba, 48, a church finance officer, said that he did not approve of certain aspects of Orban’s personality and rhetoric but that he would ultimately vote for the incumbent prime minister anyway.
“It’s better this kind of society will continue, or else there will be instability ahead,” he said, after casting his ballot at the same polling place as Orban, noting that he has been a Fidesz voter since the 1990s, after Hungary’s post-communist transition.
“I don’t see any program from the opposition,” he said.
This is a point that even some of Orban’s critics will concede.
“The opposition is fragmented,” said Zoltan Katzenbach, a retired finance professional. “There is no real stable challenger.”
“The government will not change. I’m quite pessimistic,” the sales representative said.
Orban “will stay in power. I could say the big question is whether he will get the two-thirds majority or not, but still he will remain. Even if this becomes a bump for him, he can sit back in his chair.”
Source link : https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/hungary-goes-to-polls-with-possibility-of-reelecting-viktor-orban-to-3rd-term-as-prime-minister/2018/04/08/c884984c-36b2-11e8-af3c-2123715f78df_story.html
Publish date : 2018-04-08 11:23:27