Hungarians voted yesterday in elections that look set to give Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban another term after four turbulent years that have seen him labeled savior and autocrat.
Opinion polls indicate that the only questions were whether Orban, 50, can retain his two-thirds parliamentary majority and if the far-right Jobbik might beat a wobbly center-left opposition alliance into second place.
“I know we are favorites, but the match starts at 6am with the score nil-nil,” soccer-mad Orban said at a final rally on Saturday.
Voting stations opened on time yesterday.
Surveys in 10 million-strong Hungary put the Fidesz party, created by Orban and other like-minded young student liberals in the dying days of communism in the late 1980s, on between 46 and 51 percent.
The center-left was trailing badly on between 21 and 31 percent, with the anti-Roma and anti-Semitic far-right Jobbik snapping at their heels on between 15 and 21 percent.
However, the opposition has been fighting to the last, saying the voter surveys are wrong.
“I don’t care about the polls, people are afraid of expressing their views,” said the alliance’s joint candidate for prime minister, Attila Mesterhazy. “I believe I will be prime minister in a few days.”
Orban has made the most of the super-majority he won in 2010, with a legislative onslaught shaking up the Hungarian media, judiciary and central bank.
Critics, including Brussels and Washington, have expressed concerns about vital checks and balances on key democratic institutions in the EU member state.
The fate of the media has sparked particular alarm, with state outlets merged into one tame entity and independent publications starved of advertising.
All are under the close eye of a new watchdog run by Orban lieutenants.
“The Internet is where you to go to find out what is really happening in Hungary,” said Aranka Szavuly, a freelance journalist fired from state media in 2011.
Many of these reforms have been written into a new constitution, meaning that even if the opposition were to win, it would need a two-thirds majority to change them.