NEWSMAKER-Hungary’s Orban stages big comeback, faces tough job

By Krisztina Than

BUDAPEST, April 12 (BestGrowthStock) – Viktor Orban is on the cusp
of the most sweeping election victory any Hungarian politician
has achieved since the country’s transition to democracy — and
the toughest challenge of his career as a politician.

Orban’s centre-right Fidesz party, which was in power
under Orban’s leadership as prime minister between 1998-2002,
has a good chance of gaining two-thirds of seats in Hungary’s
next parliament based on results of the first round of elections
on Sunday in which Fidesz won 206 seats of the total 386.

This could give Fidesz a strong enough mandate to rewrite
basic laws and launch deep state reforms that are essential for
putting Hungary back on track to sustainable and fast economic
growth after a deep recession last year.

The charismatic and resilient leader of the conservative
right, Orban, still only 46, has made a remarkable comeback
after two lost elections in 2002 and 2006.

After eight years Fidesz has ousted the Socialist Party,
which Orban denounces as unpatriotic, corrupt and dishonest
communists who nearly destroyed the country.

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“Today Hungarians again raised their head and condemned a
whole era … In 2010, they drew a line under an era which has
failed and chose unity, order and safety,” Orban told cheering
supporters on Sunday night after declaring victory.

Orban ran a cautious campaign that steered clear of details
on how he would cut taxes and “create 1 million jobs in 10
years” as he sought to leverage his party’s high popularity
ratings ahead of the vote.

He has been extremely careful on taking a stand on anything
that may damage him or his party, but he will need to quickly
lay out a consistent and credible strategy after the second
round of elections on April 25.

“He will face by far the biggest task of his career,”
political scientist Peter Tolgyessy told weekly Magyar Narancs
prior to the vote.

“After the election he will have to decide within a couple
of weeks about the strategy of his government, in a way which
will determine his four-year term,” he added.

LONG TERM STRATEGIST

Orban will have to live up to voters’ hopes of bringing a
palpable improvement in their lives and in the economy and he
will also have to lay out an economic plan acceptable to
international lenders, the IMF and the EU whose financing line
kept the country afloat after the October 2008 solvency crisis.

“Orban’s political room for manoeuvre will be much bigger,
but this also means a danger as every possible failure in
governing will also be his failure,” said Peter Kreko, analyst
at Political Capital.

Orban rose to fame when, in 1989, he stood up and demanded
Soviet troops get out of Hungary during a ceremony for the
reburial of former prime minister Imre Nagy, who led an
anti-Soviet uprising.

Since the first post-communist democratic election in 1990,
when his liberal party first got into parliament, he has
transformed Fidesz into a mainstream conservative group
appealing mostly to the middle class and entrepreneurs.

When he lost the 2006 vote to the Socialists, the second
parliamentary election defeat in a row, some analysts doubted
Orban would ever be able to climb back and win again.

But no one in Fidesz has ever seriously challenged his
position as a leader, even in the most difficult times.

He is seen as a pragmatic politician, but with a combative
style that could lead to squabbles with some of Hungary’s
neighbours such as Slovakia — and also Brussels.

A conservative icon on the right who is able to take tens of
thousands of supporters to the streets, Orban is seen by many of
his opponents on the left as a control-freak and populist.

A trained lawyer who studied political philosophy at Oxford
University, Orban is a strategist planning for the long term.

In a speech in late 2009 he envisaged that the next 15-20
years of Hungarian politics could be defined by “one central
political force” instead of the dual system of the past years.

A keen amateur soccer player Orban appeals to many ordinary
Hungarians with his down-to-earth approach.

Born on May 31, 1963, to a farming family in the village of
Alcsutdoboz, Orban is married with five children.
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(Writing by Krisztina Than; Editing by Alison Williams)

NEWSMAKER-Hungary’s Orban stages big comeback, faces tough job