Polls close in key Hungarian parliamentary election

Voting officially closed at 1700 GMT.

Orban's election campaign focused on his staunch anti-migration policies despite opinion polls suggesting that many Hungarians are actually more anxious about other social concerns such as poverty, corruption and improving funding for the country's ailing health care system.

Hungary's complex electoral system makes the outcome of the election hard to predict, though pollsters agree that Orban's Fidesz party, along with its allied Christian Democratic People's Party (KDNP), will likely triumph over a splintered opposition. But he's unlikely to repeat the landslide wins of the past two elections as a resurgent - if still divided - opposition has sought to capitalize on widespread claims of cronyism and intimidation.

He said voter turnout would determine the outcome.

Analysts say the strong participation could point either to a sweeping win for Prime Minister Viktor Orban's Fidesz party or a strong showing by splintered opposition groups. "Turnout will be crucial".

Following an acrimonious campaign in which the rightwing nationalist prime minister projected himself as a savior of Hungary's Christian culture against Muslim migration into Europe, all opinion polls had put his Fidesz party well ahead. A defeat could open the way for a disparate group of opposition parties to roll back some of his self-styled illiberal measures, some of which were modeled on Russian Federation. The party won a second but smaller supermajority in 2014 and then later lost it in by-elections.

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In all, 199 seats in parliament were up for grabs Sunday.

But partial results show Jobbik trailing with 20.14 of the vote, the Socialists on 11.95 percent and the environmentalist LMP party on 6.51 percent.

Since 2010, Orban has used his supermajorities to chip away at liberal democracy, angering the country's European Union allies. It has curbed the powers of the constitutional court, increased control of the media and appointed loyalists to key positions.

That has triggered a shift in mood among some voters. In some places in Budapest, thousands - in particular students - were still in line at closing time, and voters in parts of southern and western Hungary were also waiting to vote.

The strategy that worked - opposition parties joining forces - has failed to materialize before the national vote. Far-right and populist parties have made gains in other elections including in Italy and Austria. Another 93 seats will be distributed based on votes for entire party lists. "Safety is first", said Julia Scharle, 27, holding her child outside the voting district where Orban cast his vote.

Hungary's National Election Office expects to start publishing preliminary results of Sunday's parliamentary election at around 1930 GMT, said its head, Ilona Palffy. Orban, Hungary's longest-serving post-communist premier, opposes deeper integration of the bloc and - teaming up with Poland - has been a fierce critique of Brussels' policies.

(Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.)
 
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