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Hungary's Orban claims victory in polls as far right makes gains

Prime minister's Fidesz party takes lead in parliamentary elections, but results show the far right is gaining influence

Hungarians have handed Prime Minister Viktor Orban another four years in power, although one in every five voters in Sunday's election backed a far-right opposition party accused of anti-Semitism.

Orban has clashed repeatedly with the European Union and foreign investors over his unorthodox policies, and his victory, big businesses were bracing for another term of unpredictable and, for some of them, hostile measures.

But many Hungarians see Orban, 50, as a champion of national interests-who came up battling against Communist rule. They also like that personal income tax and household power bills have fallen during his past term.

After 96 percent of the ballots were counted from Sunday's parliamentary vote, an official projection gave Orban's Fidesz Party 133 of the 199 seats, guaranteeing that it will form the next government.

That tally also gave Orban's party the two-thirds majority it needed to change the constitution, but only by one seat, and final results could still push Fidesz back below the threshold.

The same projection gave the Socialist-led leftist alliance 38 seats, while far-right Jobbik Party won 23 seats.

"We have scored ... a comprehensive victory, the significance of which we cannot yet fully grasp tonight," Orban told a jubilant crowd at his party's election headquarters early Monday.

Jobbik's performance is being watched closely for clues about how other nationalist right-wing parties, such as France's Front National and the Netherlands' Party for Freedom, will perform in European Parliament elections next month.

In terms of its share of the national vote on party lists, Jobbik won 20.7 percent, up from 15.86 percent of all votes four years ago.

Its showing was the strongest of any far-right party in the EU in the past few years, according to Cas Mudde, assistant professor at the School for Public and International Affairs at the University of Georgia in the United States.

He said the previous strongest result for a far-right group was the 20.5 percent won by Austria's Freedom Party last year.

"There is no doubt that Jobbik will be among the strongest far-right parties in Europe, which is particularly striking because it is also one of the most extreme of Europe's far-right parties," Mudde told Reuters.

Jobbik has pledged to create jobs, be tough on crime, renegotiate state debt and hold a referendum on EU membership.

Its leader, Gabor Vona, often works shifts in minimum wage jobs — as a waiter or a construction worker — to show he is in touch with ordinary peoples' concerns.

While the party denies being racist, it provides a lightning rod for suspicion among some Hungarians towards the Roma and Jews.

A senior party figure in 2012 proposed drawing up lists of Jews in parliament, though he later apologized and said he was misunderstood.

"Jobbik is continuously ... increasing its popularity," Vona told party supporters late on Sunday. "And ahead of the European Parliament elections it is important to make clear that today, in the EU, Jobbik is the strongest national radical party."

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Europe, Hungary

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