Hungary woke up to snow-covered streets on the morning of the general elections, even though snowfall in April is very rare in the country. As a result, turnout in the first hours of the day was significantly lower than expected. Voters were more active in the villages, which, according to opinion polls, was favorable for Fidesz.
Among the early voters were the prime ministerial candidates of the two strongest party alliances. The incumbent prime minister, Fidesz-KDNP PM candidate Viktor Orbán, sent a message to his supporters on Facebook early in the morning saying “The communists are all voting! Let’s be there!” and soon after posted a photo of himself in a suit and with a snow shovel in the garden of his house, declaring “Snow should not be an obstacle,” urging his voters to “Sweep them away,” which was hardly a reference to the snow situation, but rather to his political rivals.
The opposition party alliance’s PM candidate, Péter Márki-Zay, also sent an early message to his supporters. His message was longer though: ‘Peace in Europe, peace between Hungarians and Hungarians. A country of love, where the most different of people and the most different of ideas can coexist. Where respect and appreciation for each other, not division and confrontation, is natural. Hungary is our homeland, let us take care of it, let us look after each other. Let us vote today for a better world, for a happy Hungary.” A little later, he stressed that he was already going to vote, only before that he would attend mass with his family (Márki-Zay repeatedly stresses that he is a devout Catholic).
The early morning campaigning was followed by an early morning vote by the prime ministerial candidates of the two party alliances. Viktor Orbán, after casting his vote with his wife, held a short press conference. The Fidesz president said he was optimistic about the outcome of the election, noting that it was a strange election not only because of the snow but also because of the war [Russia’s aggression against Ukraine- editor], and that the issue of war and peace was an important part of the campaign. He said Fidesz-KDNP were on the side of peace, while their opponents, according to Orbán, would make decisions that could drag Hungary into war. Therefore he urged voters to vote for parties that guarantee peace and security. Asked by journalists what he thought of the Russian president’s war, Orbán replied that “Vladimir Putin is not running in the elections.” Similarly, he responded to the latest criticism of Volodymyr Zelensky by saying only that the Ukrainian president would not vote today. Asked by journalists whether, if they win, they would introduce austerity measures and possibly end the utility fee cuts, which have been a burden on public finances. Orbán gave an evasive answer, stressing that he wanted to win the election first and only then would these issues be addressed. In the days before the election, both the government and the opposition accused the other of electoral fraud. Orbán also touched on this issue, saying that after the elections he believes that the lawyers will have to clarify the situation.
Péter Márki-Zay, the candidate of the opposition party alliance, voted with his wife and his five grown-up children in Hódmezővásárhely, where he is mayor and is also running as an individual candidate against Fidesz-strongman János Lázár.
After filling in the papers, he showed them to the press, demonstrating that he had voted invalidly on all four questions of the so-called child protection referendum initiated by the government (the opposition party alliance had urged its supporters to do the same during the campaign).
Márki-Zay also held a short press conference after the vote. He said he hoped that today would be a historic day, “the first real chance for change in 12 years.” However, he also said that “there is no democracy in Hungary, this election is not free.” He urged people, especially young people, to go out and vote, stressing that “every single vote counts. One vote can decide a district and one district can decide an election,” he said.
He said that the first thing they would do if they came to power would be to make Hungary a member of the European Public Prosecutor’s Office. He also refuted accusations from the governing parties that they would immediately cut off Russian gas and oil to Hungary. “There is no question of putting our own gas supply at risk,” he said.
After a cold and snowy morning, the sun came out later in the morning, and by the afternoon it was quite a pleasant time. This also discouraged voters, and turnout began to rise sharply. Two hours before the closing of the ballot, it was already 62.92 percent at 17:00, which was only 0.29 percent less than at the same time in the record-breaking parliamentary elections four years ago.
The outcome of the election is expected during the evening.
Featured photo illustration by Gábor Kiss/MTI