Hungary votes, expected to grant third term to nationalist PM Orban

Hungary's Orban tipped for re-election but upset not ruled out

Opinion polls have consistently put Orban and his right-wing Fidesz party 20 or more points clear of their nearest rivals, Jobbik, a far-right party that has been moving towards the center, and the center-left Socialists.

Sunday's elections have been highly contested, with opposition parties struggling to form an electoral alliance capable of overcoming incumbent Prime Minister Viktor Orban's increasingly far-right Fidesz.

"We are celebrating democracy and it seems like this feast will be lovely because many of us are taking part", said Gergely Karacsony, the leading candidate of the left-wing Socialist and Dialogue parties.

Turnout will be a key factor in determining the result, with higher participation thought to benefit the opposition.

"As long as the opposition is in a fragmented state. this migrant/refugee campaign is sufficient to keep (Orban's) voting base united, to keep it mobilized", said Balazs Bocskei, political analyst at the Idea Institute, a Budapest think-tank.

Eve-of-vote polls suggest that Mr Orban is on track to win a third consecutive four-year term in office following a bitter campaign in which he demonised Middle Eastern migrants as "Muslim invaders".

Taxpayer-funded billboards went up nationwide warning Hungarians about Soros, accompanied by loaded "questionnaires" sent to all households, while a "Stop Soros" package of new laws is set to make life for NGOs even harder if Orban wins another powerful two-thirds majority.

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There are 199 seats in parliament available this election and opposition parties do not want Orban's coalition to be the majority, which could lead the autocratic leader to push through constitutional changes.

Hungarian election officials say voter turnout in the country's parliamentary election 90 minutes before polls close has already exceeded the total turnout for the 2014 elections. According to the National Election Office, 13.17 percent of eligible voters had cast ballots by 9 a.m. (0700GMT), while in 2006 turnout was 11.39 percent at the same hour.

Orban's unorthodox economic policies have included special taxes, many of them targeting foreign firms, the nationalisation of private pension funds and forcing utilities to cut prices.

Voting will end on Sunday evening.

Asked by journalists if he was fighting the European Union, Orban said: "The EU is not in Brussels. The EU is in Berlin, in Budapest, in Prague and in Bucharest".

Most were passing through to reach other European Union countries, but the massive influx was seen as disruptive and unwelcome by the Hungarian government.

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