The Latest: Experts: High turnout could reshape Hungary govt

The Latest: Experts: High turnout could reshape Hungary govt
The Associated Press

BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — The Latest on Hungary’s parliamentary election (all times local):

4:15 p.m.

Experts say the large turnout in Hungary’s parliamentary election could “dramatically change” the country’s politics.

Tamas Boros of the Policy Solutions think-tank says the high voter figures mean either “overwhelming support” for Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s severe anti-migrant policies or the end of his populist, right-wing Fidesz party’s omnipotence.

Boros said in a tweet: “The Hungarian political landscape will dramatically change today.”

According to the National Election Office, 4.22 million voters had cast ballots by 3 p.m. (1300 GMT), for a turnout rate of 53.6 percent four hours before the end of voting. That was the highest turnout at that hour since at least 1998.

Orban is seeking his third consecutive term and fourth overall and his campaign has been nearly exclusively about opposing migration.

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2:40 p.m.

Figures from Hungary’s National Election Office show that voters are turning out in very high numbers for the country’s parliamentary election.

Opposition leaders hope a large turnout improves their chances against Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who is seeking his third consecutive term and fourth overall since 1998 in Sunday’s vote.

Over 3.3 million voters had taken part by 1 p.m. (1100 GMT), for a turnout rate of 42.3 percent six hours before the end of voting.

Long lines of voters waited to cast ballots at some Budapest polling stations. The opposition Socialist Party urged authorities to “at least distribute water” in districts where voters were waiting in line, sometimes for hours.

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10:45 a.m.

The leader of Hungary’s right-wing nationalist Jobbik party says he expects a “surprise” result in the parliamentary elections.

Gabor Vona said Sunday he would resign and put his fate in the hands of his party if they don’t win but plans to remain in politics nonetheless.

Vona said: “I feel a surprise and a Jobbik breakthrough can be expected in the election.”

Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s Fidesz party is expected to win the majority of the 199 parliamentary seats, with Vona’s Jobbik and a left-wing alliance of the Socialist Party and the Dialogue party led by Gergely Karacsony considered the leading challengers.

In the past few years, Vona, who has been party chairman since 2006, has pushed the party to abandon its frequently anti-Roma and anti-Semitic views and toward more a mainstream conservative direction.

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10:15 a.m.

Voter turnout in the first hours of voting in Hungary’s election is the highest since 1998. According to the National Election Office, 13.17 percent of eligible voters had cast ballots by 9 a.m. (0700GMT), while in 2006 turnout was 11.39 percent at the same hour.

Gergely Karacsony, the leading left-wing candidate for prime minster, said Sunday the high turnout was good news for those in favor of preventing Prime Minister Viktor Orban from winning his third consecutive term.

Karacsony, who heads the joint list of the Socialist Party and the Dialogue party, also said President Janos Ader, a former lawmaker for Orban’s Fidesz party, had “omitted a very serious task” by not calling for Hungarians to cast their ballots in the election.

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8 a.m.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has cast his vote in the parliamentary election, saying the ballot is about “Hungary’s future.”

Orban, who voted with his wife at a Budapest school near their home, told a crowd of reporters that he will “respect the decision” of the Hungarian voters.

Orban, who seeking his third consecutive term, and fourth overall since 1998, says he’s voting early so he could keep campaigning until polling stations close Sunday evening.

Orban, who focused his campaign on his harsh anti-migration stance, says it’s a “misunderstanding” that his frequently harsh criticism of Brussels was directed at the whole of the European Union.

He says “the EU is not in Brussels. The EU is in Berlin, in Budapest, in Warsaw, in Prague and in Bucharest. The European Union does not mean Brussels, it means the European capitals together.”

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