March 2, 2016 / 3:58 PM / 3 years ago

Public support for Hungarian PM's party drops in February: poll

BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Public support for Hungary’s ruling Fidesz party dipped in February, a poll by the Median institute said, after months of growing or stable backing boosted by the hardline handling of the migrant crisis.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban speaks during his state-of-the-nation speech in Budapest, Hungary, February 28, 2016. REUTERS/Laszlo Balogh

Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s combative style has served him well since he swept back to power in 2010 with a large majority and he won a second four-year term in 2014 but disputed education reforms seem to be sapping his support, Median said.

Orban reversed a slide in support for Fidesz last summer by taking an especially tough stance on migration, vowing to protect Hungary from an influx of migrants fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East and Africa.

By October, his government had built a razor wire fence on the border with Serbia and Croatia, which shifted the route of migrants southwards, and boosted Orban’s support at home.

However, the support declined in February according to a poll by Median published on Wednesday on website

Median said support for Fidesz among all voters dropped to 32 percent in February from 34 percent in January, while far right Jobbik increased to 16 percent from 14 and the Socialists rose to 10 percent from 9 percent.

This is the first poll conducted by Median that recorded a drop in support for Fidesz since last summer. Backing among voters with a declared party preference for Fidesz dropped to 46 percent in February from 53 in January.

“Something broke, but this does not mean that there is a big turnaround,” Endre Hann, director of Median, told Reuters.

He said there was discontent in society that manifested itself in the February poll, conducted between Feb. 19 and 23.

Last month there were two big protests against reforms of the education system by Orban’s rightwing government that many Hungarians consider oppressive and heavy-handed.

“The movement of teachers registered with a wide segment of the population,” Hann added.

Another protest will be held on March 15, which is a national holiday in Hungary.

A few days after the protests, Orban announced that Hungary will hold a referendum on European Union plans to create a system of quotas for migrants. Analysts said this would allow him to keep the issue of migration on the agenda.

Reporting by Krisztina Than

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