Hungary’s election commission has declared the ruling Fidesz party of Prime Minister Viktor Orban the winner in the country’s general election, far outpacing rival parties.
Results released by the election office late on April 8 gave the rightwing antimigrant Fidesz party 49.5 percent of the vote with 75 percent of the ballots counted.
Under Hungary’s electoral system, which favors the larger parties, Fidesz appears to be closing in on a two-thirds majority in parliament with 134 of the 199 seats up for election.
The nationalist Jobbik party was at 20 percent and 27 seats.
The Socialists were taking 11.9 percent of the vote, election officials said.
The turnout was higher than expected, at around 68 percent, and many Orban critics had hoped that would help the opposition parties.
However, Orban appears set to win a third-consecutive term, and fourth overall, as prime minister.
Preelection polls had put Fidesz at about 50 percent of the vote.
Winning a two-thirds majority in parliament would be important to Orban and Fidesz, as it would allow it to rewrite the constitution if desired.
Polling time was extended several hours after the scheduled end of the vote in order to accommodate long lines of people still hoping to cast ballots.
Officials said those polling stations would remain open until everyone in line by the scheduled closing time had been able to vote.
Some 8.3 million residents in Hungary were eligible to vote. They cast two ballots -- one for a candidate in their district and one for a party list, with 199 parliamentary seats up for election. Hungarians outside the country voting by mail choose only party lists.
After casting his ballot in a Budapest suburb, the 54-year-old Orban said the vote was about "Hungary's future," and reiterated he would stand up for Hungary's interests.
"We love our country and we are fighting for our country," he said.
Jobbik leader Gabor Vona cast his vote in the northeastern town of Gyongyos, said that the election results would "determine the fate of Hungary not just for four years but... for two generations."
Orban, who also served as prime minister from 1998 to 2002, campaigned on a strong anti-immigrant platform and on April 6 called this vote an "election of fate" and a chance for Hungarians to reclaim their country.
"They want to take away our homeland again," he said at Fidesz party rally in a town about 70 kilometers outside of the capital, Budapest.
"Parties that serve foreign interests and politicians who take foreign pay want to govern and turn Hungary into an immigrant country," he added.
Orban began his political career as a liberal activist in the late 1980s, but he has been accused by critics of abandoning Hungary's postcommunist democratic path for an increasingly authoritarian direction.
Over the past eight years, Orban's government has expanded control over the media and, through allies in the business sector, gained influence over the banking, energy, construction, and tourism sectors.
Some critics also accuse Orban of being too accommodating to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Orban was once a critic of Putin. But after his party's 2010 election victory, he called for transforming Hungary into an "illiberal state," citing Russia and Turkey as templates for success.
Orban has also repeatedly criticized U.S.-Hungarian billionaire philanthropist George Soros, whom he accuses of meddling in Hungarian politics and leading the liberal opposition.
Jobbik was formerly one of Europe’s most far-right, anti-Semitic, and anti-EU parties, but it has attempted to rebrand itself as a more-centrist entity.
EU leaders will be closely watching the results, with a big victory by Orban’s party likely to boost to similar right-wing nationalists in other Central European countries, particularly Poland and Austria, and increase concerns about EU cohesion.