BUDAPEST Viktor Orban declared a sweeping victory for his center-right Fidesz party on Sunday and told cheering supporters that leading Hungary as prime minister would be the biggest task of his life.
All the opinion polls had pointed to a Fidesz victory, and the weight of expectation to act quickly to put Hungary back on a track of sustainable growth after near financial collapse will be immense, from Hungarians and investors alike.
The result puts Fidesz within touching distance of the two-thirds of seats it needs to push through vital reforms. Fidesz ousted the Socialists into a distant second, just ahead of the far-right Jobbik party, which bagged one in six votes to win its first seats in parliament, the election committee said.
A second round of voting will be held on April 25 when the remaining 121 seats will be decided.
Orban's campaign steered clear of giving away too many policy details on how he plans to create a million jobs in 10 years, but the party has said it could double the deficit target set by the IMF and EU as part of a rescue package.
"We still believe that market effects will be seen in earnest when we get news about the actual programme of the new government," analyst Anders Svendsen, of Nordea bank, said, adding he expected "positive but limited" reaction on Monday.
Economists say Orban, 46, will need to implement deep reforms to reduce the local government sector and make the health care and education systems more efficient.
"On this splendid day Hungarians have expressed that Hungary is united, Hungary has power, is able to do great things, it wants, jobs, order and safety, Hungarians have shown to the world that it's again good to be Hungarian," he told 2,000 cheering supporters in central Budapest.
"I feel it with all my nerves and know it deep in my heart that I face the biggest task of my life. I will need all the Hungarian people to solve that."
Fidesz, which last ruled between 1998 and 2002, campaigned on cutting taxes, creating jobs and supporting local businesses to boost to Hungary's economy, which contracted by 6.3 percent last year. Unemployment is running at 11.4 percent.
The Socialist government led by technocrat Gordon Bajnai since April 2009 made painful budget cuts to rein in the deficit under the deal led by the International Monetary Fund.
"We have been waiting for this for eight years; no, for 22 years, since Fidesz was founded," Magdolna Karbacz, 44, an entrepreneur from the western city of Szekesfehervar said at Fidesz headquarters in downtown Budapest.
Fidesz secured 206 out of 386 parliamentary seats, the National Election Committee said, based on individual constituencies and party list votes. The Socialists won 28 seats, ahead of 26 for Jobbik, which leveraged deep discontent about the economic crisis and the large Roma minority.
The green liberal LMP also passed the threshold to get into parliament, securing five seats.
Analysts said ahead of the results that if Fidesz won 53-55 percent of party list votes and 120-130 seats in individual constituencies in the first round, it stood a strong chance of securing two-thirds of the seats.
"Based on the results of the first round, it seems strongly feasible that the two-thirds majority will be comfortably achieved," Robert Laszlo, an analyst at Hungary's Political Capital think-tank.
Orban was the prime minister heading the last Fidesz government and many supporters hope his government will restore Hungary's national pride.
"Fundamentally, this country needs a renewal in its soul and in its morals. This elections can help achieving that if the (new) leaders will represent that," said Peter Buki, 37.
Analysts said Fidesz' strong victory was expected to have a neutral or slightly positive impact on financial markets and the forint on Monday as the election result had been expected.
"I expect moderate strengthening of the forint and a drop in government bond yields tomorrow ... Global developments like Greek news and U.S. economic figures are also supportive," said analyst Gergely Suppan of Takarekbank.
(Additional reporting by Sandor Peto and Marton Dunai; Writing by Krisztina Than; Editing by Alison Williams)