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Polls close in general election in Hungary

Hungary hosted a general election on Sunday. The chances are somewhat in favour of Hungarian nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, one of the longest-serving leaders in Europe, who wants to extend his 12-year rule thanks to his government’s strong control over the state media.

The Hungarians began voting at 6 a.m. local time, with the polls closing at 7 p.m. local time. Casting his vote in snowy Budapest, Orbán told reporters he was confident and presented the vote as a choice between “peace and war”, again accusing his opponents of trying to draw Hungary into the Ukrainian conflict, which they have denied. Repeatedly asked about his close ties with Moscow and Russian President Vladimir Putin, Orbán said, “Vladimir Putin is not running in the Hungarian elections therefore I do not have to deal with this question today luckily.”

The campaign was dominated by the war in neighbouring Ukraine. In the polls, the six-party opposition alliance, formed especially for the purpose of the elections, spanning all options of the political spectrum, is within reach of Orbán’s Fidesz, which makes the voting result uncertain for the first time since Orbán took power in 2010. The war in Ukraine thwarted Orbán’s domestic plans and forced him to manoeuvre uncomfortably at home after more than a decade of close political and business relations with Moscow.

Opposition leader 49-year-old conservative Peter Marki-Zay presented the elections as a choice between East and West. According to him, Orbán turned Hungary towards Russia, undermining democratic rights and driving the Central European country away from the European Union, to which it belongs.

In one of the last elections polls hosted before the voting process, performed by Zavecz Research, Fidesz led with 39 percent of votes against 36 percent for the opposition, while a fifth of voters was yet to decide who to support.

Despite the fact that the war in Ukraine is at the centre of the election discourse, many Hungarians are struggling with soaring consumer prices, with inflation reaching an all-time high of 8.3 percent in February, even after Orbán imposed restrictions on retail fuel prices, groceries and mortgage rates.

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