Hungary's nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orban claimed a "historic victory" Sunday as his far right-wing party took a thumping lead in the country's key parliamentary election.
With almost 98 percent of votes counted, Orban's Fidesz party has won 48.81 percent of the vote, the National Election Office (NVI) said, surpassing even the expectations of many within Fidesz. The score represents more votes than four years ago and puts the 54-year-old premier on track for a third consecutive term in office.
Voter turnout had reached 69.26 percent, up more than seven points on elections in 2014, the NVI said, with several polling stations forced to open late to accommodate the increase.
Before the vote, it had been thought that a surge in voter turnout would favor the opposition Jobbik, a far-right party that has been moving towards the center, and the center-left Socialists. However, with nearly all votes counted, results show Jobbik trailing far behind with 19.67 percent, the Socialists on 12.42 percent and the environmentalist LMP party on 6.97 percent.
Jobbik's leader Gabor Vona resigned on Sunday night, as he had promised to do if Jobbik didn't win, and railed against the "lies" and "constant attacks" his party had had to face in the campaign.
In his speech, Orban thanked Jaroslaw Kaczynski, leader of Poland's governing PiS party, for his support, as Poland and Hungary see each other as key allies in their battles with EU institutions. Meanwhile, France's far-right leader Marine Le Pen tweeted her congratulations on Sunday night, saying the "reversal of values and mass immigration promoted by the EU has been rejected once again". Dutch far-right leader Geert Wilders was also quick to welcome the "excellent result."
Orban also said he would take unspecified "moral, political and legal" measures against his opponents after the vote, prompting fears of a crackdown on the opposition. Fidesz may even be on track to win its coveted two-thirds "supermajority" in parliament which would grant it wide powers to press ahead with controversial measures and change the constitution.
Some of the previous measures passed using this mechanism include those that have put Orban on a collision course with Brussels, including a concerning erosion of media and judicial independence, as well as its crackdown on civil society organizations linked to liberal U.S. billionaire George Soros — as Orban accuses Soros and the organizations he funds of promoting mass Muslim and African immigration into Europe in order to undermine its Christian identity.
The last few weeks of the campaign were marked by allegations of money laundering and corruption levelled at Orban's inner circle, often published in media owned by oligarch Lajos Simicska, an erstwhile Orban ally who fell out with him after Fidesz's 2014 election victory.
The opposition's campaign had focused on corruption and deteriorating public services, as well as the government's failure to stem a high level of emigration which has seen the country's population fall under the symbolic 10 million mark.
Definitive results will not be issued for several days, after ballots sent by expatriate Hungarians and ethnic Hungarians in neighboring countries are counted.