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Hungarian leader Viktor Orban looks set for re-election despite Putin loyalty

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Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban. Photo: Bernadett Szabo

Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban. Photo: Bernadett Szabo

People wait in a queue in front of a polling station during the Hungarian parliamentary election, in Budapest yesterday. Photo: REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo

People wait in a queue in front of a polling station during the Hungarian parliamentary election, in Budapest yesterday. Photo: REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo

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Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban. Photo: Bernadett Szabo

Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban claimed victory last night as he was projected to win a fourth term in office, despite being accused of cosying up to Vladimir Putin.

Early tallies suggested Kremlin-backed Mr Orban’s Fidesz party will emerge as the largest, though the result is still in doubt.

His re-election would be seen as a cause for celebration for president Putin, Hungary’s pro-EU opposition leader said.

Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukraine’s president, had accused Mr Orban of being the “only one in Europe” to publicly back Russia and make “no effort to stop the war”.

“We did not ask for anything special from official Budapest,” Mr Zelensky said ahead of the ballot. “We didn’t even get what everyone else is doing! We saw no effort to stop the war!

“The whole of Europe is trying to stop the war, to restore peace. Then why is official Budapest opposed to the whole of Europe, to all civilised countries? For what?”

He added: “If it’s a war, then I call it a war, not a ‘special operation’. If this is a threat to the whole of Europe, then I call it a threat to the whole of Europe. This is called the honesty that Mr Orban lacks. He may have lost it somewhere in his contacts with Moscow.”

Mr Orban, a long-standing ally of Mr Putin, has insisted his country would remain neutral and would maintain its close economic ties with Moscow.

At his final campaign rally on Friday, the Hungarian prime minister told supporters that supplying Ukraine with weapons would make the country a military target. “This isn’t our war, we have to stay out of it,” he said.

In a 10-minute speech to Fidesz party officials and supporters last night in Budapest, Mr Orban addressed a crowd cheering “Viktor!” and declared it was a “huge victory” for his party.

“We won a victory so big that you can see it from the moon, and you can certainly see it from Brussels,” said Mr Orban, who has often been condemned by the European Union for democratic backsliding and alleged corruption.

“The whole world has seen tonight in Budapest that Christian democratic politics, conservative civic politics and patriotic politics have won. We are telling Europe that this is not the past, this is the future,” Mr Orban said.

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While votes were still being tallied, it appeared clear that the question was not whether Mr Orban’s Fidesz party would take the election, but by how much.

With 75pc of votes tallied, his Fidesz-led coalition had won 54.5pc, while a pro-European opposition coalition, United for Hungary, had nearly 34pc, according to the National Election Office.

It appeared possible that Fidesz would win another constitutional majority, allowing it to keep making deep changes to the central European nation.

As Fidesz party officials gathered at an election night event on the Danube river in Budapest, state secretary Zoltan Kovacs pointed to the participation of so many parties in the election as a testament to the strength of Hungary’s democracy.

“We have heard a lot of nonsense recently about whether there is democracy in Hungary,” Mr Kovacs said. “Hungarian democracy in the last 12 years has not weakened, but been strengthened.”

The contest was expected to be the closest since Mr Orban took power in 2010, thanks to Hungary’s six main opposition parties putting aside their ideological differences to form a united front against Fidesz.


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