Hungary is set for four more years of Prime Minister Viktor Orban after the divisive strongman swept to victory in elections that also saw the far-right increase its share of the vote.
“We can say with absolute certainty that we won,” the right-wing Orban, 50, told cheering supporters in Budapest after Sunday’s vote.
“These elections were free. Organised in a free country.”
Orban’s Fidesz party won 44.6 per cent of the vote, relegating the centre-left opposition alliance to a distant second place with 25.8 per cent, results based on 94 per cent of votes counted showed.
The anti-Roma and anti-Semitic Jobbik party of the far-right looked to have increased its share to 20.8 per cent from 16.7 per cent at the last election in 2010.
Attila Mesterhazy, the left-wing alliance’s main candidate, said he accepted the result but would not congratulate Orban.
“Orban has continuously abused his power,” he said. “Hungary is not free, it is not a democracy”.
It remained unclear, however, whether Orban’s victory will be big enough for the right-winger to retain his two-thirds majority in parliament. This was set to become clear later on Monday.
Armed with a super-majority, Orban devoted the last four years to a legislative blitz that opponents say have tightened his control on democratic institutions in the EU member state.
Of particular concern both at home and abroad was a shake-up of the media that critics say has driven any unfavourable reporting of the government to the Internet.
Orban, a proud patriot fond of nationalist rhetoric, says his quest has been to clean up the chaos left by eight years of left-wing government before 2010.
He has claimed credit for Hungary returning to growth and unemployment falling, and before the election ordered utility firms to cut electricity and gas prices by more than 20 per cent.
But experts say that his bashing of multinational corporations, banks and “imperial Brussels bureaucrats” has frightened away foreign investors.
According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), 30.6 per cent of Hungarians report they are unable to buy food.
The drop in unemployment, meanwhile, is thanks in part to another controversial policy, “workfare”, making people work for welfare benefits, often in menial tasks like sweeping the streets.
Orban first rose to prominence as a long-haired student dissident, calling in a 1989 speech for Soviet troops to leave the country and for free and fair elections.
Since then he has turned the Fidesz movement that he formed with like-minded young liberals into a potent political force.
The father-of-five became prime minister as a fresh-faced 35-year-old in 1998 but lost to the Socialists four years later and again in 2006.
This time though the centre-left never even looked like it might win, only uniting in January, riven by divisions and hurt by a corruption scandal splashed all over the media.
Further hobbling its chances were new election rules that rigged the system massively in Fidesz’s favour, the opposition said.