Hungary set to re-elect anti-Muslim immigration Prime Minister

Incumbent Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.
Incumbent Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban. Photo credit: Reuters

Hungarians are set to re-elect Viktor Orban, a hardliner on immigration, for a third straight term in an election that could help solidify anti-migrant positions in Central European governments.

After an acrimonious campaign in which Mr Orban has projected himself as a saviour of Hungary's Christian culture against Muslim migration into Europe, all opinion polls put his Fidesz party well ahead.

A strong victory on Sunday could embolden him to put more muscle into a Central European alliance against the European Union's migration policies.

Mr Orban, Hungary's longest-serving post-communist premier, strongly opposes deeper integration of the bloc.

A landslide win would make Mr Orban feel vindicated in his decision to run a single-issue campaign, arguing that migration posed a big security threat. Mr Orban's critics said his stance has fuelled xenophobia in Hungary.

A strong win for Mr Orban would also boost other right-wing nationalists in Central Europe, in Poland and in neighbouring Austria, and expose cracks in the 28-nation EU.

The EU has struggled to respond as Mr Orban's government has used its two landslide victories in 2010 and 2014 to erode democratic checks and balances, by curbing the powers of the constitutional court, controlling the media, and appointing loyalists to key positions.

Mr Orban has far-right admirers across Europe who like his tough line on migrants. He is also credited with keeping the budget deficit under control, reducing unemployment and some of Hungary's debt, and putting its economy on a growth track.

On Friday, at his closing campaign rally, Mr Orban vowed to protect his nation from Muslim migrants.

"Migration is like rust that slowly but surely would consume Hungary," he said.