Hungary’s opposition parties, which have joined forces to fight next year’s general election, have elected a small-town mayor to challenge incumbent Prime Minister Viktor Orbán in the 2022 polls. Péter Márki-Zay is expected to win over swing voters and disillusioned Orbán supporters as the opposition seeks to stop Orbán from winning a fourth term in the spring.
Conservative independent candidate Péter Márki-Zay won an opposition primary in Hungary held to decide who will run against Prime Minister Viktor Orbán in national elections next spring. Márki-Zay, the moderate conservative mayor of Hódmezővásárhely, is now the joint nominee of the united opposition platform comprising six parties from across the political spectrum. Campaigning with the slogan "anyone but Orbán," the parties pledged to put aside ideological differences and support a single candidate as they seek to defeat Orbán and his ruling Fidesz party after more than a decade in power.
Revolution of ordinary people
The primaries were held in two rounds and Márki-Zay had not been considered the favorite in the race at the start. He came in third place after the first round of voting and faced liberal social democrat Klára Dobrev in the second round after second-placed Budapest Mayor Gergely Karácsony announced he was dropping out of the race.
Márki-Zay, with no party affiliation, has returned to Hungary after living in the United States. He called his victory "a revolution of the ordinary people."
"We can only win together," Márki-Zay said after the results of the vote were announced. "This was a battle, but we have to win the war as well," he added.
He now has the pledged support of all six opposition parties, which claim that a united front is the only way to overcome an election system designed by Fidesz that gives it an unfair advantage.
In an acceptance speech on Sunday night, Márki-Zay pledged to fight corruption and bridge divisions within the Hungarian society.
Orbán, who has confidently won every election since coming to power in 2010, will face a united front of opposition parties in next year’s elections for the first time. Current opinion polls indicate that the 2022 vote will likely be a very close race.
Márki-Zay, 49, is a historian, economist, marketing specialist, and electrical engineer. Conservative, religious, and the father of seven children, he is a relative newcomer to Hungarian politics. He has described himself as an acceptable choice for both left-wing and conservative voters, and likely to appeal to undecided voters.
The politician has pledged to lead a coalition of "the clean" and promised to clamp down on corruption. He is intent on changing Hungary’s constitution and several laws enacted by Obán, which he claims are the foundations of an "illiberal state."
Political analysts say that Márki-Zay’s success in winning rural electoral districts poses a threat to Orbán, who has solid backing in the countryside. Neck-and-neck polls also suggest that the incumbent prime minister faces his most serious political challenge since coming to power given the united front the opposition so far has managed to present.
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