Conservative wins Hungary opposition race as anti-Orbán parties unite

Conservative politician Péter Márki-Zay has won the race to become the Hungarian opposition’s joint candidate for prime minister, as anti-Orbán parties unite in an effort to oust the sitting premier.

Márki-Zay — currently serving as the mayor of Hódmezővásárhely, a city in the south — bested Klára Dobrev, a vice president of the European Union parliament who was representing the left-liberal Democratic coalition, in a second-round runoff election by nearly 88,000 votes, according to results published late Saturday.

More than 650,000 Hungarians cast ballots in the election, both in person and online.

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Márki-Zay, who is not affiliated with a political party, received nearly 57 percent of the vote, while Dobrev took home about 43 percent of the ballots cast. Dobrev, however, has since pledged support to Márki-Zay, according to Reuters.

He will now face off against Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán in a general election that is set to take place in the spring of 2022. The race against Márki-Zay will be the first time Orbán, who first assumed power in 2010, will face a united group of opposition parties vying to oust him from his post.

Opposition polls cited by Reuters show Orbán's Fidesz party and the opposition coalition neck-and-neck.

Márki-Zay had strong support among left-wing and liberal voters, according to Politico, and is looking to gain the support of Hungarians who remain undecided but are dissatisfied with Orbán and his ruling party. 

Six different opposition parties have joined forces with the goal of ousting Orbán from office, according to Politico. The coalitions have also coordinated primaries to pick joint candidates in local electoral races.

The opposition alliance includes socialists, liberals and the center-right Jobbik party, according to Reuters.

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The groups coalesced in response to the current electoral structure, which was designed by Fidesz and has made it hard for opposition parties to challenge the prime minister on their own. 

Márki-Zay, during remarks to supporters in Budapest, said he would work to reform the political culture in Hungary, and made a call to action for the country to come together.

“We want to build a new Hungary,” Márki-Zay said, according to Politico.

“We can only win together,” he added, according to Reuters. “No one can break the unity of the opposition.”

He said that despite the primary win, the real race is still yet to come.

“This was a battle, but we have to win the war as well,” Márki-Zay said, referring to the general election against Orbán.