* Opposition Fidesz seen winning, may get two-thirds
* Far-right Jobbik expected to get into parliament
* Fidesz needs to boost economy, enact structural reforms
By Krisztina Than and Marton Dunai
BUDAPEST, April 8 Hungarians will vote on Sunday
in an election that looks set to bring a landslide victory for
the centre-right opposition party Fidesz, giving it a strong
mandate to enact reforms and lead the economy out of recession.
The elections on April 11 and 25 are expected to transform
Hungary's political landscape, as the Socialists who have ruled
for eight years are routed and a new far-right party, Jobbik, is
set to enter parliament.
Fidesz, led by the 46-year-old Viktor Orban, looks likely to
win an overall majority, and could even secure the two-thirds of
seats that would give it a platform for broad structural reform.
"What's at stake is whether after 20 years, the country will
be set on a path that would make more of the Hungarian
population feel that democracy ... is also good economically,"
said political analyst Zoltan Kiszelly.
For a range of stories and graphics, see [ID:nLDE63107B]
Three surveys on Thursday put Fidesz on around 40 percent of
all voters, the Socialists around 13 percent, Jobbik around 8-11
and undecideds or non-voters on 30 percent or over. Among
decided voters, Fidesz has over 60 percent support. [nLDE6370EW]
Hungary's complex two-round election system makes it hard to
predict the allocation of seats from surveys, but the Republikon
Institute said it expected Fidesz to win 267 seats, the
Socialists 62, Jobbik 47 and LMP 10. Pollster Median said Fidesz
could even get 275 seats.
A two-thirds majority -- 258 seats or more -- would empower
Fidesz to pass laws to shrink the local government sector, and
even to change the constitution written after communism
collapsed in 1989.
Whether it gets this number will probably not be known until
the second round of voting on April 25, and much may depend on
how much support Jobbik gets and whether the green liberal LMP
crosses the five percent threshold to enter parliament.
The far-right Jobbik, which some say could displace the
Socialists as second party, has capitalised on public anger over
job losses and corruption, and on resentment towards a large
Roma minority, especially in the poor northeast.
Fidesz last ruled between 1998 and 2002, when the economy
was growing fast and foreign investment was pouring into central
Europe, but it will face a very different challenge this time.
The economy contracted 6.3 percent last year and is seen
stagnating this year HUGDP1.
High state spending had forced the Socialist government to
keep tax at punitive levels. But after a deal with the
International Monetary Fund and EU in 2008 that saved Hungary
from default, it enacted spending cuts to slash the 2009 budget
deficit to 4 percent of GDP.
The economic crisis has taken a tough toll on Hungarians who
borrowed heavily in the boom years, mostly in Swiss francs, and
The macroeconomic imperative in Hungary is clear: it needs a
credible medium-term economic plan to bolster the economy, and to
bring down its public debt from 80 percent of GDP to a
sustainable level. This might put eventual adoption of the
European single currency on the horizon.
Economists say that to secure long-term economic growth,
Hungary must overhaul an inefficient health system, cut state
spending further, reform education to generate more skilled
workers, and lower taxes.
Fidesz has promised to create 1 million jobs in 10 years,
boost lending and support small businesses, as well as slashing
taxes, and most Hungarians are now looking to it above all to
restore their living standards.
"We are dead last among the countries (in the region). The
government works the way foreigners dictate. Corruption is
everywhere," said Katalin Kossanyi, 68, a pensioner.
Tamas Sztanko, 29, said: "If we must, we will vote for them
(Fidesz) so that they have the majority to carry out the reforms
that this country needs."
Fidesz will have to walk a narrow fiscal path, trying to
reassure international lenders and markets while keeping the
populist, nationalist Jobbik -- with which it has ruled out any
cooperation -- at bay.
"Initially, Fidesz will be walking through a minefield. It
will have to show success in areas where it will not be simple
at all," said Peter Kreko of the Political Capital think tank .
Reforms could be especially hard to sell to the population
in view of Fidesz's anti-reform rhetoric of recent years.
"If Fidesz does not manage to give social and economic
legitimacy to democracy, then ... Jobbik may capitalise," said
political analyst Kiszelly.
(Writing by Krisztina Than; Editing by Kevin Liffey)