A conservative mayor will lead Hungary’s united opposition against Prime Minister Viktor Orban in the most fiercely contested election in more than a decade.
Peter Marki-Zay dominated the six-party alliance’s primary runoff, defeating Klara Dobrev, a European Parliament vice president and the candidate of DK, the biggest opposition party.
The victory gives him a chance to take on the longest-serving prime minister in Hungarian history in the general election, likely to take place in April. Orban, who’s also the longest-tenured head of government in the European Union, has nearly unlimited resources at his disposal, more than 30 years of political experience and an army of loyalists in key positions across Hungary.
The nation’s first-ever primary mobilized almost 700,000 opposition voters after parties across the political spectrum put aside their differences to challenge Orban, who’s consolidated power to an unprecedented degree in the European Union member state.
“The results of the primaries have given a huge boost to the entire opposition, unprecedented since 2010,” said Mujtaba Rahman, managing director for Europe at the Eurasia Group political risk consultancy.
Marki-Zay has vowed to dismantle Orban’s stranglehold on politics, the economy and culture, including by firing loyalists the premier has appointed to lead state institutions. He’s also pledged to disregard parts of the constitution he says serve to ensure Orban’s influence even in case of an election defeat.
At first glance, the 49-year-old Marki-Zay, who says he voted for Orban’s Fidesz party as recently as in 2010, is an unlikely choice for the mostly urban and liberal opposition.