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Hungary Elects: Voters Head to the Polls in Key European Election

Hungary Elects: Voters Head to the Polls in Key European Election

The autocratic Orban has campaigned heavily on his unyielding anti-migration policies, though voters say they are more concerned with poverty, growing government corruption and the country's underfunded health care system.

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.

Some party leaders have said near-record turnout of around 70 percent would probably strip Orban of his parliamentary majority.

This in turn will lead Viktor Orban to the third term as prime minister.

Early in the day, voter turnout was the highest since 1998.

"We are celebrating democracy and it seems like this feast will be lovely because many of us are taking part", said Gergely Karacsony, the leading candidate of the left-wing Socialist and Dialogue parties.

Analysts, however, were more cautious about the significance of the turnout.

Before the vote, Mr Orban and his Fidesz party were polling at 20 points or more ahead of the far-right Jobbik party and the centre-left Socialists. "The Hungarian political landscape will dramatically change today".

Turnout was higher than the final turnout of 61.73 percent in the last election in 2014 which gave Orban a landslide victory.

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He does stand at 6-4 and his nickname is the Big Maple, so it's possible that there was simply a miscommunication. Paxton seemed to stay calm, and the eagle eventually landed on the ground and was picked up by its handler.


Jobbik's Mr Vona urged his supporters not to become complacent.

Clad in a green jacket and white shirt, Jobbik leader Gabor Vona, 39, arrived to vote in the eastern city of Gyongyos, his home town and the district where he is likely to win a seat.

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. Steps included passing a new constitution over opposition protests, a crackdown on civil society groups, stacking state institutions with party loyalists and using the government's power to dominate media.

Mr Vona said the question is not about migration but the large number of Hungarians leaving the country and heading to western Europe in search of higher wages and better prospects.

"This is a country which has always stepped up for itself, so we can trust in the people, I will accept their decision", he said.

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.

Opposition parties have urged Hungarians to vote tactically for the opposition candidate with the best chance to defeat the Fidesz candidate in the 106 individual districts - but it is not clear how much impact that will have. "Safety is first", said Julia Scharle, 27, holding her child outside the polling station where Orban cast his vote.

About 8.3 million Hungarians are eligible to vote this election, and preliminary results are expected Sunday night.


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