Viktor Orban’s ruling Fidesz party maintained a slim lead over an opposition alliance before Sunday’s parliamentary election, a survey by the think tank IDEA Institute showed on Thursday. The poll, conducted between March 22 and 28, put support for Orban’s nationalist Fidesz at 41 percent of the electorate, up from 40 percent in early March, while the six-party opposition alliance stood at 39 percent, gaining two points from the previous survey.
The ranks of the undecided fell by five points to six percent, the poll showed.
The vote will decide whether Brussels will continue to face resistance from Hungary and Poland over media freedoms, rule of law and minority rights or Warsaw will be left isolated in its standoff with European institutions.
Orban faces a united opposition for the first time since he came to power in a 2010 election landslide.
Its candidate for prime minister is Peter Marki-Zay, an independent who is now mayor of Hodmezovasarhely, a town in southern Hungary.
Among decided voters, Fidesz held a more comfortable lead, leading the opposition alliance by five percentage points.
Other polls published earlier this week also put Orban’s ruling party ahead of their rivals.
Fidesz swept elections in 2018 on a fierce anti-immigration campaign that earned him praise from former US President Donald Trump and Europe’s far right – and set him on a collision course with Brussels.
Now, the 58-year-old leader acknowledges this election will not be a walkover.
“The stakes of this election are, even for an old warhorse such as myself, much higher than I could have ever imagined,” Orban, who has evenly split the time in opposition and in power since post-communist Hungary’s first election in 1990, told pro-government channel HirTV on Monday.
Defence of conservative Christian family values against what he calls “gender madness” now sweeping Western Europe is part of Orban’s current campaign.
On Sunday, Hungarians will also vote in a government referendum about sexual orientation workshops in schools, a vote which rights groups have condemned saying it fuelled prejudice against the LGBTQ community.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine upset Orban’s script, casting his close relations with Moscow in a new light.
He responded by tapping into Hungarians wish for security, posing on campaign billboards as their protector and accusing opposition politicians of trying to drag Hungary into the war, a charge they have denied.
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Yet the opposition leader Peter Marki-Zay seized the opportunity, telling voters they faced a choice between the West and East, criticising Orban’s close relations with Russia and what he said was an erosion of democratic rights.
Campaigning in what used to be called Moscow square in Budapest, an opposition stronghold, Marki-Zay said on Tuesday that Russian President Vladimir Putin was rebuilding the Soviet empire and Orban “still cannot decide how to keep an equal distance from the killers and the victims”.
Addressing cheering supporters, the conservative small-town mayor and a Catholic father of seven, brought up the Hungarian uprising crushed by Soviet tanks almost 66 years ago while taking a swipe at Orban.
“After 1956 there is still a Hungarian politician, who cannot state that we always must stand up against the aggressor,” he said.