Hungary's opposition scored its biggest election victory in a decade on Sunday October 13th when liberal challenger Gergély Karácsony ousted ruling-party incumbent István Tarlos as mayor of Budapest. According to a Reuters report, opposition parties also made gains in other major cities.
However, the result will not affect Prime Minister Viktor Orbán's grip on national power. Support for his government is sustained by a strong economy, fierce anti-immigration rhetoric and generous wage rises. His ruling Fidesz party remains extremely popular in rural areas.
A general election is not due until 2022 and Orbán, who rose to power in 2010, holds a huge majority in parliament.
With 81.6% of Budapest votes counted, Karácsony had 50.6% support compared with 44.3% for Tarlos, according to data on the National Election Office website.
The showing for the opposition was better than expected, and vindicated its strategy to field joint candidates, seen as the best way to challenge Fidesz. Orbán’s party had secured seven consecutive landslide election wins at national, municipal and European levels since 2010.
"Changing Budapest and the major cities is the first step toward changing Hungary," Karácsony said as 71-year-old Tarlos, Budapest’s mayor since 2010, conceded defeat.
Opposition parties also looked set to win a majority in the Budapest General Assembly and made gains outside the capital, with preliminary results projecting opposition mayors winning in ten of Hungary's 23 big cities.
"Today, the citizens of Budapest have decided that the time has come for something different," Orbán told a news conference. "We accept this decision. In the interests of the country and the citizens of Budapest, we are ready to cooperate."
Commentators say the opposition's showing could solidify cooperation between opposition parties ahead of the 2022 general election. However, forming a wide opposition alliance will prove to be difficult, given the need to align widely diverging policies across the political spectrum, from the right wing Jobbik party to Liberal Momentum on the left.