March 9, 2018 / 1:12 PM / in 3 months

Hungary's ruling Fidesz unlikely to win two-thirds majority in April: party official

BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Hungary’s ruling Fidesz is unlikely to win a two-thirds majority in parliament in the April election as it did in the two previous polls due to increased coordination among opposition parties and voter fatigue, a senior party official said.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban talks during a forum of the chamber of industry in Budapest, Hungary, March 6, 2018. REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo

Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s nationalist Fidesz, in power for eight years and at odds with the European Union on a range of issues, remains well ahead of its rivals in opinion polls, campaigning on a tough anti-immigrant agenda that also promises increased state spending on wages and pensions.

But Gergely Gulyas, leader of Fidesz’ parliamentary group, told magazine Hetek in an interview that his party was unlikely to win two thirds of seats as in the 2010 and 2014 elections, partly due to the sheer length of time it has now held power.

“Our clear goal is to form a government. A hundred mandates are enough for this. Everything that comes above that is a much-valued gift,” Gulyas was cited as saying in the interview.

“I may be too pessimistic, but I regard a two-thirds victory unlikely.”

Gulyas also ruled out Fidesz entering into a coalition with other parties if it fails to secure a majority in the election.

“Today I cannot see any possibilities for a coalition. If a stable government cannot be formed, then sooner or later there will be early elections.”

“Preserving Hungary’s stability... is at stake in the election,” he added.

Despite its domination of Hungarian politics and the continued weakness of the opposition, Fidesz was taken off guard by the victory of an opposition-backed independent over its candidate in a by-election on Feb. 25.

Earlier this week Orban announced generous pre-election handouts to millions of families and pensioners in an attempt to shore up support among voters.

His government has also stepped up its anti-migrant rhetoric in recent weeks, vilifying U.S. financier and philanthropist George Soros, whom it accuses of wanting to bring millions of migrants into Europe. Soros denies this.

The Orban government has launched a nationwide billboard campaign with the message: “The U.N. wants us to accept migrants on a continuous basis. HUNGARY DECIDES, NOT THE U.N.!”

Despite Gulyas’s comments, there is little sign yet of the opposition parties - which include the nationalist Jobbik, the Socialists and smaller left-leaning liberal parties - forming a common nationwide front against Fidesz.

Reporting by Krisztina Than; Editing by Gareth Jones

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