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High early turnout for Hungary's elections

09 April 2018, 12:34 | Marta Robbins

Prime Minister Viktor Orban at his final electoral rally in Hungary Credit Darko Vojinovic AP

Prime Minister Viktor Orban at his final electoral rally in Hungary

199 seats in the Hungarian parliament are up for grabs. That was the highest turnout figure for that hour since at least 1998. In contrast, the turnout was only 61.7 percent in the last election, in 2014, which gave him a massive victory.

A strong victory could embolden him to put more muscle into a Central European alliance against the European Union's migration policies. Preliminary results are expected in the evening before midnight.

While voters were no longer allowed to join queues at polling stations as of 1700 GMT, those already in line will be allowed to cast their ballots, a process that can take hours at the busiest polling stations.

Voter turnout in Hungary's parliamentary election reached 68.13 percent by 1630 GMT on Sunday, exceeding final turnouts in all the past three elections, National Election Office data showed.

Hungarians voted in large numbers Sunday in an election that is being keenly watched across Europe, with firebrand nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orban tipped to win a third consecutive term and press ahead with his anti-immigration agenda. Opposition parties are keen to make sure that Orban's bloc does not sweep to a super-majority in which the autocratic leader could easily push through constitutional changes.

"Migrants should not come here, and this (Fidesz') economic policy should continue", said Janos Dimovics, a pensioner who came from his village to see Orban.

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

Long lines of voters were reported at the Hungarian embassies in London and Paris. "Alongside high voter turnout, the country will have a strong, legitimate parliament".

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Opposition leaders said they were encouraged by high early turnout.

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

Meanwhile Jobbik leader Gabor Vona cast his ballot in the northeastern town of Gyongyos, saying that the result would "determine the fate of Hungary not just for four years but... for two generations".

Government influence on the media was palpable in Sunday's broadcast by state television M1 news channel, where reports highlighting the negative effects of migration dominated the programming.

'Today will decide whether Hungary becomes an emigrant country or not - and I wouldn't like Hungary to be an emigrant country, ' Mr Vona said.

Orban told reporters after casting his ballot that he is fighting for the future of his beloved country.

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. "Safety is first", said Julia Scharle, 27, holding her child outside the polling station where Orban cast his vote.



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