A provincial mayor with no party affiliation looks set to challenge Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban in elections next year after taking the lead in an opposition primary vote on October 17, according to partial results.
Peter Marki-Zay, the 49-year-old conservative mayor of Hodmezovasarhely, was leading in the polls against challenger Klara Dobrev, a parliamentarian with the leftist Democratic Coalition party.
The primary was organized by a six-party opposition alliance formed last year in an effort to put forth a single candidate that could defeat Orban. Five candidates took part in the first round of the primary last month.
Marki-Zay made it into the second round ballot after Budapest Mayor Gergely Karacsony, who took second in the first round of voting, withdrew from the race.
During the campaign, Marki-Zay, a practicing Catholic and father of seven, argued that only he can appeal to both leftist voters and conservatives tired of Orban's often divisive policies.
Orban has served as prime minister since 2010.
An economist and engineer who lived in the United States and Canada for five years, Marki-Zay grabbed national attention in 2018 when he won the race to become the mayor of Hodmezovasarhely.
Located almost 200 kilometers southeast of the capital, Budapest, Hodmezovasarhely has a population of about 40,000.