Hungarians vote in parliamentary elections

Hungarians head to the polls with Prime Minister Viktor Orban's Fidesz party ahead in opinion polls.

    Hungarians are voting in parliamentary elections, with incumbent Prime Minister Viktor Orban projected to win.

    Orban was predicted to triumph in Sunday's elections after four years in office, with polls indicating that the only questions were whether Orban can retain his two-thirds parliamentary majority and if the far-right Jobbik might beat the centre-left opposition alliance into second place. 

    "I know we are favourites," Orban said at a final rally on Saturday, urging supporters to come out and vote.

    "In 2002 we were also ahead in the polls ... but still lost the elections." 

    Voting stations opened at 6:00 am (0400 GMT) and were due to close at 7:00 pm (1700 GMT), with exit polls expected soon afterwards.

    I don't care about the polls, people are afraid of expressing their views

    Attila Mesterházy, chairman of the Hungarian Socialist Party 

    Surveys in Hungary put the Fidesz party,  on a commanding 46-51 percent. The centre-left coalition was trailing on 21-31 percent, with the far-right Jobbik very close behind on 15-21 percent.

    The opposition is still hopeful of victory. "I don't care about the polls, people are afraid of expressing their views," opposition leader Mesterhazy said on Saturday.  

    "I believe I will be prime minister in a few days."

    Legislative changes

    Orban has made the most of the super-majority he won in 2010, with a legislative changes made to everything from the central bank to the constitutional court in the European Union member state.

    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.

    Orban says his changes are aimed at turning Hungary into a "race car" after eight years of economic and political Socialist mismanagement had reduced it to an "old banger".

    He has also claimed credit for an improving economy, with Hungary having repaid an emergency IMF loan, the recession over and unemployment and inflation down.

    But critics say nationalist rhetoric and unorthodox economic policies scare away foreign investors. 

    He has trumpeted a 20-percent cut in utility prices before the election but value-added tax (VAT) is the highest in the EU.

    Poverty rates are high, and a "workfare" scheme forces the unemployed to perform menial work in return
    for benefits.

    SOURCE: AFP


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