BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) – The Latest on local elections in Hungary (all times local):
Officials have begun counting votes cast in Hungary’s local elections, with a more unified opposition trying to dent the prolonged power of Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s Fidesz party.
Sunday’s election is projected to have one of the highest voter turnouts in local elections since Hungary’s 1990 return to democracy. The race for Budapest, the capital, was expected to be close.
A half-hour before the end of voting, turnout was 47.2%.
Inundated by more personal scandals of politicians than any previous election in the past 30 years, analysts saw the strong turnout as motivating voters but were unsure whether it was more favorable to Fidesz – one of whose mayors was at the center of the most shocking revelations, including an orgy on a yacht – or the opposition, where several parties across the political spectrum joined in support of a single, joint candidate in many cities, towns and districts.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s dominant right-wing Fidesz party was facing a challenge Sunday from opposition parties who are backing joint candidates in many cities in the country’s nationwide local election.
Fidesz has been easily winning local, national and European Parliament elections since 2010, but a more unified opposition and the release of a video showing one of the party’s best-known mayors, former Olympic champion gymnast Zsolt Borkai, participating in an orgy on a yacht shook up the last days of the campaign.
The sex scandal has visibly flustered Orban’s party, whose officials initially called it a private matter. The conservative Fidesz, which since 2015 has made its reputation on anti-migration policies, also casts itself as a defender of Christian and family values.
In Hungary’s most closely-watched vote, Budapest Mayor Istvan Tarlos, who is not a member of Fidesz but is backed by Orban’s party, was running against Gergely Karacsony, a district leader in Budapest who is supported by five left-wing, Green and liberal parties.
More than 8 million people were eligible to vote for over 3,000 mayors and 17,200 local council members elected for five-year terms.