BUDAPEST (AFP) -Hungarians vote in a key by-election on Sunday that could see controversial Prime Minister Viktor Orban lose his two-thirds majority in parliament.
The maverick premier’s right-wing Fidesz and its junior coalition partner, the Christian-Democrats, have ruled Hungary with an all-powerful two-thirds majority since 2010.
Winning elections in 2014, the parties retained the super-majority by one seat in the 199-seat parliament.
The super-majority could however come to an end as voters in Veszprem, a traditionally conservative town southwest of the capital Budapest, head to the polls to fill the seat of Tibor Navracsics, now a European Union commissioner.
The super-majority has enabled the government to carry out sweeping constitutional and institutional changes that critics say curbed press freedom and judicial authority.
The moves sent alarm bells ringing about the state of democracy in the EU member state. Orban, who only days ago hosted Russian President Vladimir Putin, is also seen as increasingly cosying up to the Kremlin.
Analysts are predicting a close race between Fidesz’s Lajos Nemedi and an independent candidate, Zoltan Kesz, supported by opposition leftist parties.
The only available poll, done at the end of January, showed Nemedi leading with 43 per cent and Kesz with 37 per cent.
Orban played down the significance of the vote, saying he does not forsee further legislation requiring a super-majority.
Csaba Toth of the Republikon Institute told AFP “the election primarily has a symbolic significance in dismantling Fidesz’s two-thirds majority.”
“It would make the ruling party’s recent plunge in the polls tangible,” Toth said.
Orban’s party suffered a sharp drop in polls at the end of last year following corruption scandals and mass protests over a proposed Internet tax that was later dropped. Its popularity stabilised last month.