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Orban Sets Hungarian Election Tone With Billions In Promises

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban attends the opening session of parliament in Budapest on September 20.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban attends the opening session of parliament in Budapest on September 20.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban hoped to woo Hungarian voters ahead of next year's planned elections as the EU-skeptical populist pledged billions in support for families and wage hikes in an address to parliament's opening session on September 20.

In power since 2010, a serious challenge has arisen to Orban and his nationalist Fidesz allies that could chip away at their current large majority in the legislature in the April voting.

A diverse, six-party alliance set up last year accuses Orban of overseeing a reign of rampant corruption and emergent authoritarianism.

In his speech to parliament, Orban vowed to put an additional 600 billion forints ($1.99 billion) in the hands of families early next year and to raise the country's minimum wage.

Orban has sought to spearhead criticism of the European Union, showily broadening channels with Moscow and leading the anti-immigrant populism that has taken increasing hold in some countries since the 2015 migrant crisis in Europe.

EU officials have repeatedly criticized him for perceived attacks on free media and civil society, erosions of democratic institutions, and legislation that Brussels and others say is anti-LGBT.

The anti-Orban alliance suffered a setback last weekend when its first-ever primary elections to identify a solid challenger to Orban ran into technical glitches, prompting opposition groups to extend the process to September 28.

The opposition National Primary Election Commission (OEVB) suggested state officials might have been behind the snag, although they provided no evidence, saying those in power were "scared that masses of people wanted to express their opinion."

Orban said recently that he was "prepared" for outside "interference," including from the United States, in the coming election year.

With reporting by Reuters
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