Despite polling and analyst predictions, incumbent Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and his ruling Fidesz party were able to preserve the two-thirds majority they have held in the Hungarian legislative since 2010.
With 98,96% of votes counted on Monday morning, Fidesz is set to win 135 of the 199 seats in the national assembly, up by two from its victory in 2018. Compared to the previous parliamentary elections on the national party lists, the ruling coalition improved its result by almost 4 points, receiving 53.10% to 49.27% four years ago.
“We have won a victory so great that it can be seen from the moon, but certainly from Brussels!” Orbán told supporters in his victory speech on Sunday (3 April) evening.
With a high turnout (69,54%), though below the historical record of the previous parliamentary polls (70.22%), the united six-party opposition comprising socialists, social-democrats, greens, liberals and conservatives, got 35.04% of the votes on national lists.
In the country’s mixed electoral system that allocates 106 seats to single-member constituencies, the opposition coalition is set to win 56 mandates.
The only other party to reach the 5% electoral threshold was the far-right nationalist Our Homeland (Mi Hazánk) with 6.17%, receiving 7 MPs. One preferential seat was allocated to the German minority represented by Imre Ritter, considered to lean in favour of the ruling party.
Saying the night’s victory will be memorable “because we had to fight the biggest overwhelming force”, Orbán listed the left, bureaucrats in Brussels, the empire of Hungarian-American billionaire George Soros, the international mainstream media, and “in the end, even the Ukrainian president” as his opponents.
Russia’s war in Ukraine has become a focal point of the campaign, with the opposition emphasising Orbán’s close ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin, while the ruling party incorrectly ascribed its opponents the intention of dragging Hungary into war.
“A special thank you to those who are Hungarians in Transcarpathia today. Our message is not to be afraid, to hold on, the motherland is with you,” Orbán greeted the Hungarian ethnic minority in Ukraine, estimated at 130,000 before the war.
Thanking his European partners, Hungary’s prime minister said his victory is sending a message to Europe that his party’s politics “is not the past, this is the future. This will be our common European future.”
Many observers warned that the elections could not be considered “fair” as a result of changes to the electoral law, address registration rules, misuse of administrative resources, campaign finance transparency issues, and the overwhelming dominance of Fidesz in the media.
However, analysts said following the elections that the size of the victory suggested that Fidesz’s landslide win cannot be ascribed to the uneven playing field alone.
“It is safe to say that the overwhelming majority of Hungarian society wanted Fidesz to win and let them take control of the country again,” Andrea Szabó, a senior research fellow at the Centre for Social Sciences, told opposition online channel Partizán.
However, in his concession speech, joint opposition prime ministerial candidate Péter Márki-Zay said he did not dispute that Fidesz won this election “in this system” but “that this election was democratic and free that, of course, we still dispute.”
“We never thought that this would be the result. There is no way to sugarcoat it,” the independent mayor told his supporters.
“We must acknowledge that it is propaganda that won this election for Fidesz, not honesty and not honour,” he added.
Promising to stay in Hungary, he asked opposition voters to “not let go of each other’s hands”.
Yet, several opposition politicians rushed to distance themselves from the conservative Christian mayor who won the opposition primaries in the fall but lost his own constituency to ruling party candidate János Lázár 52,37% to 39,58%.
Far-right-turned-conservative Jobbik chairman Péter Jakab said the six-party coalition must be maintained despite the election defeat, but they must continue without Péter Márki-Zay.
“Péter Márki-Zay got an army of six opposition parties in October and a considerable advantage. This has now turned into a massive disadvantage, more like a two-thirds Fidesz majority”, Jakab said in a short Facebook statement.
“Whoever steers the ship into a storm, whoever fails to reach the port, whoever fails to reach the desired destination, may have been at the helm, but in the end, those who have placed the fate of the ship on him think that perhaps he is not the best captain,” said ex-prime minister and chair of Democratic Coalition Ferenc Gyurcsány, without mentioning Márki-Zay by name.
Meanwhile, the government failed to achieve the necessary number of valid votes in what it called a “child protection” referendum, widely considered to be targeting the LGBTQI community, held simultaneously with the elections.
Hungarians were asked to decide if they supported:
- holding information events on sexual orientation to minors in public education institutions without parental consent
- the promotion of gender-reassignment treatments to minors
- the unrestricted exposure of minors to sexually explicit media content that may influence their development
- showing minors media content on gender-changing procedures
The opposition and rights groups campaigned on casting invalid ballots, while Fidesz asked its supporters to reject the propositions.
On Monday morning, with 98.94% of ballots counted, only 44.46%% of the population cast valid votes, while 20.08% had not voted validly, failing the necessary threshold of half the adult population to be considered binding. Of those who cast valid votes, 92.34% rejected the propositions, while 7.66% expressed support.
[Edited by Alice Taylor]