Hungary Premier Orban Rallies Backers to Push for Win

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban used a gathering of hundreds of thousands of his supporters in Budapest to galvanize efforts to turn his hefty lead in polls into a victory at the ballot box next week.

Orban, 50, whose Fidesz party leads all opinion surveys, said he wanted to avoid a repetition of 2002, when he unexpectedly lost as incumbent and spent eight years in opposition. He addressed a rally of as many as 460,000 people, state-run news service MTI reported, citing an estimate from the Interior Ministry.

“The stars are aligned well,” Orban said to shouts of “Viktor.” “We are the favorites of this election, but beware, being the favorite isn’t the same as winning. We have to make that victory materialize with the work of the next eight days.”

After a campaign focusing on government-mandated cuts in household utility bills, polls indicate that the vote on April 6 will be a walkover for Orban, who may also retain his two-thirds majority for a second term. A victory would return to office a leader who has amassed more power than any of his predecessors since the fall of the Iron Curtain and clashed with the European Union over the erosion of Hungary’s checks and balances during his term.

“We are very grateful that Orban defended our nation against outsiders,” Kalman Mohay, 53, an engineer from Szentendre, a town on the Danube north of Budapest, said as he walked with his wife and two daughters near Parliament on the way to Orban’s rally in the center of the capital. “Now the strife is being fought on the economic field.”

Flat Tax

In economic policy, Orban’s government nationalized private pension funds and introduced the highest levy on lenders in Europe as part of efforts to reduce the budget deficit without giving up a flat personal income tax. The economy grew 1.1 percent last year after a recession in 2012.

Fidesz has the support of 38 percent of eligible voters, according to a Tarki poll published this week. An opposition alliance that includes the Socialist Party and the Egyutt 2014 group of former Prime Minister Gordon Bajnai is backed by 16 percent, Tarki said. The radical Jobbik party polled at 15 percent and the green party LMP at 4 percent. Pollsters Ipsos, Nezopont, Median and Szazadveg also predicted that Orban will win the vote.

Joseph Daul, president of the European People’s Party, the largest group in the European Parliament, addressed the rally today to endorse Orban.

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