Budapest: Viktor Orbán has won a fourth successive term as Hungary’s prime minister, capping a campaign dominated by his controversial stance on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine with a speech that appeared to mock Volodymyr Zelensky, the Ukrainian leader.
Ecstatic chants of “Viktor, Viktor” greeted Orbán as he addressed supporters of his Fidesz party outside its election headquarters on the banks of the Danube in Budapest as results made the scale of his victory apparent.
With nearly 86% of the vote counted on Sunday night, Fidesz was on course to increase its parliamentary majority by winning 135 seats in the 199-member parliament, crushing a six-party opposition bloc that united to form a common front aimed at unseating Orbán.
Instead, the ruling party has retained its two-thirds supermajority, which has enabled it to reshape Hungarian politics and social policy during its 12 years in power.
The popular vote margin was 53.7% for Fidesz to 34.4% for the United for Hungary opposition grouping, fronted by Péter Márki-Zay, who conceded defeat on Sunday night.
“The entire world can see that our brand of Christian democratic, conservative, patriotic politics has won,” a smiling, swaggering Orbán – with members of his cabinet behind him – told the crowd, standing in frigid temperatures. “We are sending Europe a message that this is not the past – this is the future.”
Orbán also made reference to criticism directed at him by Zelensky, who has repeatedly challenged the Hungarian leader over a perceived lack of support and an unwillingness to condemn his close ally Vladimir Putin in person for the invasion of Ukraine.
“This victory is one to remember, maybe even for the rest of our lives, because we had the biggest [range of opponents to] overpower. The left at home, the international left, the bureaucrats in Brussels, the money of the Soros empire, the international media and even the Ukrainian president in the end,” he said to laughter from the crowd.
Conceding defeat, Márki-Zay said he was “devastated” and attributed its scale to Fidesz’s gerrymandering methods and other changes to the voting system while in office.
“I don’t want to hide my disappointment and my sadness. We never expected this to be the result,” he said.
“We knew beforehand that this was going to be an imbalanced fight. Yes, they’ve cheated too. But we’ve also said that since there is no democracy in Hungary and they’ve changed the whole system, the districts.”
Orbán’s party has strengthened its hold on office through a favourable media ownership structure and changes to the voting system that critics say render elections unfair.
Márki-Zay, a 49-year-old economist, has complained bitterly that he was given only five minutes of airtime on public TV to state his case.
The opposition has also complained that Fidesz has a huge advantage in election spending and communication. It said it had about 2,000 election advertising billboards throughout the country to 20,000 for the governing party.
Orbán’s fourth term, which will become his fifth overall, may also pose a possible conundrum for Nato and the EU amid mounting concerns over Hungary’s attitude to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and whether it is a reliable alliance partner.
Although Orbán has so far not attempted to block sanctions and military responses to the attack, he signalled an unwillingness to contemplate measures that would cut supplies of Russian oil and gas.
He has also refused to allow the supply of weapons to Ukraine or permit military aid to pass through Hungarian territory, angering Nato allies and Zelensky, who has branded him Putin’s sole European supporter.
Orbán has forged a close relationship with the Russian leader and met him 12 times. said reducing energy dependency on Russia – which provides an estimated 90% of its gas and 65% of its oil – would wreck Hungary’s economy.