Hungary's Governing Coalition Wins Ballot

The Associated Press
Sunday, April 23, 2006; 4:34 PM

BUDAPEST, Hungary -- The Socialist-led governing coalition won runoff parliamentary ballots Sunday, becoming Hungary's first administration to win re-election since communism fell.

With nearly all voting districts counted, the National Election Office projected the Socialists and their coalition partners ended up with 210 of the legislature's 386 seats. Two center-right parties had 175 seats, and an independent candidate got one seat.

"We have won!" a beaming Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany told supporters at Socialist Party headquarters. "I thank those who said ... that the coalition should continue with even more courage and greater influence."

His coalition won 113 seats outright in the first round of voting April 9, while the opposition won 99. Sunday's vote decided races in which no candidate got a majority in the opening ballot.

Socialist Party chairman Istvan Hiller said the leader of the opposition Fidesz-Hungarian Civic Union had conceded defeat. "A few minutes ago, Viktor Orban called Ferenc Gyurcsany and congratulated him on his victory," Hiller said.

Preliminary figures showed voter turnout was about 63 percent, compared with 68 in the first round, the National Election Office said.

Gyurcsany, 44, is a former communist youth leader during the Cold War era who became one of Hungary's richest businessmen.

He campaigned on promises to provide his people with peace and security in their everyday lives, while improving their economic competitiveness.

He also said he would get Hungary ready to adopt the European Union's common currency in 2010. But his government must deal with a huge budget deficit _ the largest in the EU compared to size of economy _ and pressure is mounting from the EU for economic reforms.

Orban had warned that four more years for the Socialist-led government would bring budget cuts, higher unemployment and price increases.

"Anyone who understands economics knows radical budget restrictions are in the works," Orban said.

This was the first time that Hungarian voters have given a second consecutive term to a political bloc since the communists gave up their monopoly on power in 1990.

Gyurcsany rose to power in September 2004 after his predecessor as prime minister, Peter Medgyessy, was forced to step down by the parties in the governing coalition. They cited concerns about his lack of leadership and the government's unpopularity at the time.

© 2006 The Associated Press