Orban Foe Seeking to Raze His Regime Vaults to Primary Lead
(Bloomberg) -- A woman who has vowed to annul Hungary’s controversial constitution dominated the first round of an opposition primary that will decide who will challenge Viktor Orban in the tightest general election in more than a decade.
Klara Dobrev, 49, a vice president of the European Parliament and the only woman running for the nomination, won 35% of the vote. Budapest Mayor Gergely Karacsony, the early front-runner, was in second place with 27%. Peter Marki-Zay, a conservative mayor of a mid-sized city, was third with 20%. All three proceed to a runoff next month.
The eventual winner will lead the main opposition parties, which have united for the first time in a general election to confront Orban. Opinion polls show them neck and neck with Orban’s Fidesz party ahead of elections likely to take place in April.
“We’re not stopping until we defeat Viktor Orban and his regime,” Dobrev said in a victory speech Thursday evening, casting herself as the new front-runner and potentially Hungary’s first female premier.
Whoever emerges the ultimate winner of the primary will face an uphill battle against Orban, who during his 11-years of uninterrupted rule revamped the constitution, redrew electoral districts and extended his influence over the media and courts. The European Union is holding back billions of euros of funding as it probes the rule of law in Hungary.
Dobrev rose to the lead by staking out the most radical position on the main campaign theme: undoing Orban’s stranglehold on politics, the economy and culture of the EU nation. She has pledged to void the constitution and suspend the Constitutional Court even without parliamentary backing.
Karacsony has struck a less confrontational tone and argued that ending the public funding of Orban’s business allies would by itself trigger the implosion of a system critics say was built to preserve the premier’s influence even in case of defeat.
Still, Dobrev faces a tough competition in the runoff.
Karacsony and Marki-Zay, who made waves in 2018 by wresting control of a ruling-party stronghold, are in talks about endorsing one another. They’ve previously said Dobrev was the weaker candidate as she needs to overcome the distrust many Hungarians have of her husband, ex-Premier Ferenc Gyurcsany.
Gyurcsany, the chairman of their Demokratikus Koalicio party, quit less than a year after accepting a $25 billion international bailout in 2008 to avert a default. Belated austerity measures paved the way for Orban to take power in a 2010 landslide.
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