Pro-EU Dobrev wins first round of opposition primaries to face Hungarian Orban
BUDAPEST, Sept.30 (Reuters) – Klara Dobrev, a 49-year-old lawyer in favor of rapprochement with the European Union, on Thursday won the first leg of an opposition primary to nominate the challenger to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban in a national 2022 election.
Dobrev, who would be the first woman to hold the post of Hungarian prime minister, finished comfortably ahead of left-wing Budapest mayor Gergely Karacsony, 46, who won an upset victory over the ruling Fidesz party in the municipal elections of 2019.
Preliminary results of the first round of the primary elections are expected later Thursday. Based on the results of 95 of 106 constituencies, Dobrev, the Democratic Left coalition candidate for prime minister, led with 34.6% of the vote, Karacsony second with 27.15%.
Conservative Peter Marki-Zay, mayor of a town in southern Hungary, took third place with 20%. There will be a run-off next month among perhaps the top three voters.
Dressed in the EU’s blue and yellow colors, Dobrev told a press conference that after a fair and democratic race she was ready for the second round.
“We will not stop until we have defeated Viktor Orban and his regime,” said Dobrev.
Dobrev, vice-president of the European Parliament, pledged to reduce poverty and work for the adoption of the euro. Karacsony also campaigned on a pro-European agenda. He promised a fairer tax system and allay political divisions.
A six-party patchwork that includes the Socialists, the Democratic Coalition Party, the Liberals and ex-far-right Jobbik, who has redefined himself to the center-right, has formed a united front against Orban for the 2022 parliamentary vote for the first time since he came to power in 2010.
Orban and his nationalist party Fidesz have held the post in large part thanks to an electoral system that favors the big parties. The fragmented opposition had not been able to join forces in the last three national elections.
That has now changed, giving hope to opposition voters who turned out in higher numbers than expected for the primary, with more than 633,000 people voting across the country.
Opinion polls put Fidesz and the opposition coalition neck and neck, raising fears of the tightest elections in more than a decade.
With Dobrev leading now, she faces a double challenge as it is not clear at this point who Marki-Zay would return in the second round, if he decides to retire.
She is also the candidate for a party led by her husband, former Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany, a deeply controversial figure who admitted in a 2006 leaked speech that he lied about the economy to win national elections.
Orban portrayed the opposition, particularly Karacsony and Dobrev, as puppets of Gyurcsany.
“Let the left-wing theater continue, but it is clear who will have the last word: Ferenc Gyurcsany. Once again, the task will fall on us to defeat him next spring,” said on Facebook the leader of the parliamentary group Fidesz, Mate Kocsis. .
Reporting by Krisztina Than and Anita Komuves; Editing by Robert Birsel, Mark Porter and Peter Cooney
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