Hungary's Orban Eyes Fourth Term as Premier After Party Vote

Updated on
  • Orban to remain ruling party Fidesz chairman after congress
  • Government to cut home construction VAT to five percent

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban moved closer to his goal of winning a fourth term and becoming one of the longest-serving leaders in the eastern European nation’s history after winning re-election as the head of the ruling party.

Orban, who ran uncontested, was re-elected as chairman of Fidesz for another two years at a party convention in Budapest on Sunday. The premier, 52, said that he intends to lead the ruling party into 2018 parliamentary elections. Orban first served as premier in 1998-2002 and returned to the post in 2010.

“Within two years, if there is trust, I am ready to lead the election campaign and continue to be the head of government, if we win,” Orban said.

Orban is known for his criticism of liberal democracy and opposition to German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s open-door policy during the largest migration wave in Europe since World War II. Orban’s ideology is spreading, with Poland this year electing an anti-immigrant government that is emulating Hungary in seeking to limit a democracy until now based on a system of checks and balances.

Fidesz was backed by 34 percent of eligible voters in November, with the radical nationalist Jobbik second at 21 percent and other parties far behind, according to a survey by the polling company Median published in the HVG weekly on Thursday. No margin of error was given.

Poll Surge

Orban’s party has surged in polls with its anti-immigrant policies, including fencing off its southern border and deploying the army to repel migrants. The government has also filed a lawsuit to block the mandatory distribution of migrant quotas in the EU.

“Pro-immigration policy has failed,” said a Fidesz communique issued at the convention and sent by e-mail. “We shall oppose it with the authorization and support of the Hungarian people, and through all means which are possible and lawful.”

On the economy, Orban has been a proponent of budget discipline and of squeezing foreign-owned companies in industries including energy and retail, while cutting their influence in banking. The government is working to limit an economic slowdown as EU funding, the biggest source of investments, is projected to drop off in 2016.

To help stimulate the economy, the government will cut the value-added tax on newly-built homes to 5 percent from the current 27 percent over the next four years, Orban said. The bill will be submitted to parliament on Monday, he said.

(An earlier version corrected the planned VAT cut in the last paragraph.)
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