Orban Had `Undue Advantage' in Hungarian Vote, OSCE Says

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s ruling party had an “undue advantage” in the parliamentary election it won yesterday, international election monitors said.

While the balloting was “efficiently administered” and gave voters a “diverse choice,” restrictive campaign rules and “biased media coverage” disadvantaged opposition parties, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said in a preliminary report today.

Orban clashed with the European Union over the past four years as he oversaw the biggest consolidation of power since the end of communism, unilaterally rewriting the constitution, curbing the power of the top court and changing election rules. The opposition alliance led by the Socialist Party, which placed second, said the election was unfair. Orban’s ruling party has rejected the criticism.

“A number of amendments negatively affected the election process, including important checks and balances,” according to the OSCE, a 57-country security forum.

Orban’s Fidesz is on the brink of retaining its two-thirds parliamentary majority with 99 percent of the ballots counted, the election regulator said on its website today. It gained 44.5 percent of party-list votes and led in 96 of the 106 single-member districts. An opposition alliance led by the Socialists had 26 percent support and led in 10 constituencies, the anti-EU Jobbik party was at 20.5 percent and the green group LMP at 5.3 percent.

Fidesz focused its campaign on government-mandated cuts in utility prices as opposition parties struggled to get their message out after Orban banned paid TV advertising for political parties and limited spots on public networks. The rules didn’t apply to the government, which flooded the airwaves with ads of “Hungary is doing better,” a slogan matching that of Fidesz.

“The absence of political advertisements on nationwide commercial television, and a significant amount of government advertisements, undermined the unimpeded and equal access of contestants to the media,” the OSCE said.

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