Maverick Hungarian PM Orban suffers by-election blow

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban lost his two-thirds majority in parliament in a key by-election on Sunday that could trigger a further slide in the maverick premier`s popularity.

AFP| Updated: Feb 23, 2015, 02:04 AM IST

Budapest: Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban lost his two-thirds majority in parliament in a key by-election on Sunday that could trigger a further slide in the maverick premier`s popularity.

Orban`s right-wing Fidesz party and its junior coalition partners, the Christian Democrats, have ruled Hungary with an all-powerful two-thirds majority since 2010.

In elections last year, the parties retained the super-majority by one seat in the 199-seat parliament.

The so-called super-majority however came to an end as voters in Veszprem, a traditionally conservative town southwest of the capital Budapest, chose independent candidate Zoltan Kesz, supported by opposition leftist parties, with 43.1 percent of the votes over Fidesz`s local man, Lajos Nemedi who received 33.4 percent.

"We have shown a yellow card to the government," Kesz said.

The commanding parliamentary majority has enabled the government to carry out sweeping constitutional and institutional changes that critics say have curbed press freedom and judicial authority in Hungary.

The moves have 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.

Orban played down the significance of the vote, saying he does not forsee introducing further legislation that would require a super-majority.

"This result can be translated as a defeat for Fidesz," analyst Gabor Torok told ATV television.

Csaba Toth of the Republikon Institute told AFP earlier 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 popularity at the end of last year following corruption scandals and mass protests over a proposed Internet tax that was later dropped.