BUDAPEST, April 8, 2018 (BSS/AFP) – Hungarians vote in elections Sunday that polls suggest will give Prime Minister Viktor Orban, a fierce nationalist and opponent of immigration, a third consecutive term.
Here are the main players in the vote in the ex-communist central European country of 9.8 million people, a member of the European Union since 2004.
– Viktor Orban –
Orban, 54, made his name with an electrifying speech as a student in 1989 telling Soviet forces to go home, and has subsequently become Hungary’s most important political figure since communism.
In power since 2010, Orban has shaken up the Hungarian state, eroding the independence of the judiciary, neutering the press and rigging the electoral system, critics say.
This and his virulent anti-immigration stance — he erected a border fence during the 2015 migrant crisis — have created, together with like-minded Poland, a headache for the EU.
His election campaign has railed against what he calls the “globalist elite”, led by Hungarian-born George Soros, wanting to destroy Christian Europe with mass Muslim immigration.
“Large Western European countries bit by bit are losing their own countries, they (the globalist elite) want to force us to do the same,” Orban told a recent rally.
“Africa wants to kick down our door, and Brussels is not defending us.”
– Gabor Vona –
Jobbik, whose leader is Gabor Vona, 39, was long a byword for racism and anti-Semitism, burning EU flags, calling Jewish lawmakers a national security risk and staging paramilitary torchlit marches to frighten the Roma minority.
But Vona has sought to moderate Hungary’s third-largest party in parliament, asking the Roma for forgiveness and sending Hanukkah greeting cards to the Jewish community.
On many issues Jobbik is now to the left of Orban’s party Fidesz, whilst tapping into public anger over corruption, and the emigration of young people.
“Only our solutions for the broken health and education sectors are radical now,” Vona told AFP. The party’s metamorphosis is not a tactic but “100 percent conviction”. But not everyone is convinced.
– Gergely Karacsony –
“Let it be Christmas!” reads a campaign slogan from Gergely Karacsony: his surname means Christmas in Hungarian.
Like Vona, he is another young pretender to Orban’s throne, but the 42- year-old’s roots lie at the other end of the political spectrum.
The bespectacled bicyclist started off in Hungary’s green party LMP before leaving after an acrimonious split over cooperation with other anti-Orban groups.
Now the prime ministerial candidate for the Socialist Party, he regularly tops polls for likeability, although critics have chided him over his changes of allegiance.
Tackling child hunger would top his to-do list if he becomes PM, he told AFP.
– Peter Marki-Zay –
Largely unheard of just a few months ago, Marki-Zay, a 45-year-old church- going father of seven, inflicted the biggest defeat for Fidesz since 2010 by defying the polls to win a local mayoral vote.
“We have shown that Fidesz can be beaten… there is hope!” he said in his victory speech in the southern town of Hodmezovasarhely.
Since his shock win as an independent candidate backed by all the opposition parties, Marki-Zay has led efforts by civil society activists to identify the strongest anti-Orban candidate in each of Hungary’s 106 electoral districts.
The former Fidesz voter, now a household name nationwide, has even been touted in opposition circles as a compromise prime minister if Fidesz are unable to form a government after Sunday.