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Hungary's prime minister readies for elections

By The Associated Press

This article was published March 29, 2014 at 1:57 p.m.

— Hungary's prime minister on Saturday predicted "a bright and great victory" in next week's parliamentary elections for his governing Fidesz party, which has a substantial lead in the polls.

According to the Interior Ministry, around 450,000 supporters attended the rally at Heroes Square to hear Premier Viktor Orban, who said victory on April 6 would give his government the opportunity to tackle some of Hungary's main challenges like job creation, an aging population and education reform.

"We are here to tell each other, the country and the world that we ask for four more years," Orban said. "We are the favorites in this election."

The latest opinion polls show around 50 percent of likely voters backing Fidesz, about 20 percent support for the left-wing coalition led by the Socialist Party and 15 percent for the far-right Jobbik party.

Despite the favorable figures, Orban urged the crowd to vote "because there is no opportunity which cannot be wasted."

The upcoming elections will be the first under new rules created by Orban's government.

The number of lawmakers will fall from 386 to 199 in a single round of voting, strict limits have been placed on campaign ads, hundreds of thousands of ethnic Hungarians from the neighboring countries and abroad who hold dual citizenship are expected to vote for the first time and, critics say, a reshaping needed because of population shifts has been used by Fidesz to gerrymander the voting districts.

During his 21-minute speech, Orban spoke about the policies and achievements of the past four years, like the repayment of a 2008 bailout loan from International Monetary Fund, heavy taxes on banks and multinational companies and a public works program which has pushed down the unemployment rate.

Fidesz and its small ally, the Christian Democrats, won a two-thirds majority in 2010, a win Orban has described a "revolution in the voting booth."

The landslide result allowed Fidesz to adopt a new constitution and reshape many aspects of Hungarian life, mostly by centralizing power and increasing the role of the state.

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