Hungary's Fidesz wins 52% of vote; Orban vows to halt immigration

By Krisztina Than and Marton Dunai
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Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban addresses supporters after the preliminary results of the European Parliament election in Budapest

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban waves after addressing supporters, following the preliminary results of the European Parliament election in Budapest, Hungary, May 26, 2019. REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo

By Krisztina Than and Marton Dunai

BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Hungary's ruling right-wing Fidesz party won 52.14% of votes in the European parliamentary election on Sunday on a hardline anti-immigration platform, scoring a big victory over a divided opposition.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban told supporters of his Fidesz party that he would cooperate with everyone in Europe who wanted to halt immigration.

"The election victory means that ... Hungarians gave us the task of ... stopping immigration all across Europe," Orban told cheering fans in Budapest.

Hungarians wanted Fidesz to "protect Christian culture in Europe" he said.

Fidesz came in well ahead of the leftist Democratic Coalition, which was second with 16.26%, according to the national election office. The Momentum party was third with 9.92%. The Socialists won 6.68%, while the nationalist Jobbik got 6.44% of votes, both weakening significantly.

Orban, who built a steel fence in 2015 sealing off Hungary's southern borders to keep out migrants, has framed the election as a choice between forces backing and opposing mass immigration. He was reelected for a third term in 2018 with a very strong mandate.

His power at home is cemented until the next election in 2022. More open is whether Fidesz, which secured 13 of Hungary's 21 seats in the 751-seat European Parliament, leaves the mainstream European Peoples' Party (EPP) to side with far-right nationalists in the new European Parliament.

Speaking earlier on Sunday, Orban declined to say whether he would join Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini's new party alliance after the election.

The migration issue, and how people respond to it, would reshape the political spectrum in the European Union in the vote, he said, and traditional party groupings would not play the same role in the future.

The EU elections were expected to further dent traditional pro-EU parties and bolster the nationalist fringe in the European Parliament.

Orban said Fidesz belonged to the EPP, the European Parliament's main center-right grouping, but the group is arguing about its future direction and Fidesz wants to influence that debate.

"We would not like to belong somewhere where we don't have an influence on the main strategy issues," Orban said.

The EPP suspended Fidesz in March amid concerns that it has violated EU principles on the rule of law, and either side could pull the plug on their association.

(Reporting by Krisztina Than; Editing by Keith Weir and Frances Kerry)