Hungary's lawmakers elect Viktor Orban to 3rd term

AP News
Posted: May 10, 2014 2:40 PM
Hungary's lawmakers elect Viktor Orban to 3rd term

BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — Hungarian lawmakers on Saturday elected Viktor Orban to his third term as prime minister, a month after his Fidesz party won its second consecutive two-thirds majority in the legislature.

Orban was supported by 130 deputies from Fidesz and its small ally, the Christian Democrats, while 57 lawmakers from the opposition parties voted against him.

Speaking in the legislature after the swearing-in ceremony, the 50-year-old prime minister said his re-election would allow him to continue with the policies of the past four years.

"After such difficult years, when we totally renewed and reorganized Hungary, voters still entrusted us to carry on with our work," Orban said.

In his lengthy speech, Orban also backed the new government in Ukraine, where about 150,000 ethnic Hungarians live.

The authorities there "enjoy our sympathy and support in their task of creating a democratic Ukraine," Orban said.

The fate of around 2.5 million ethnic Hungarians in neighboring countries — in areas it lost after World War I — has long been a delicate issue for Hungary. Orban's government has allowed many of them to obtain Hungarian citizenship and vote in Hungarian elections.

"Hungarians of the Carpathian Basin are entitled to dual citizenship, community rights and autonomy," Orban said. "This is the stance we will represent in international politics."

Orban said that Hungary, a country of 10 million people, was "a member but not a hostage" of NATO and the European Union and would continue to defend its national interests.

The Orban government has attained significant economic achievements — lower inflation and unemployment and budding signs of growth — but many of the gains have been the result of unsustainable practices.

Labor data has been lifted by large public works programs and the inclusion of some of the Hungarians working abroad, while inflation has fallen in great part thanks to mandatory cuts in energy prices for households.

The country's accounts have also profited from the nationalization of $14 billion in assets administered by private pension funds and heavy taxes on banks, retailers, telecommunications companies. At 27 percent, Hungary also has the highest value-added tax in the EU.

Critics have also attacked Orban's concentration of power and the weakening of democratic norms.

Later, Orban spoke to a large crowd of supporters outside parliament, urging them to vote for Fidesz in the upcoming European parliamentary elections.