Orban in Hungary started his re-election campaign with the Union of Opposition Parties against him

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Urbanon on Saturday extended a cap on fuel prices and announced more generous measures to support the family if he is re-elected on April 3 as he faces the biggest challenge yet to his 12-year rule.

Orban, in his annual State of the Nation address, accused his opponents of plotting a return to the economic mismanagement that pushed the country to the brink of financial collapse in 2008.

For the first time since 2010, Urbanand’s ruling nationalist Fidesz party will face a united front of opposition parties at the polls, which will likely be the toughest election since its landslide victory in 2010.

Minutes before Orban began his speech, opposition leader Peter Markie Zee said on Facebook that the six-party alliance had collected enough signatures to field candidates in all 106 constituencies.

“The only blessing of Viktor Orbán’s State of the Nation address is that it was his last as prime minister,” opposition leader Marky Zay said on Facebook after Orban’s speech ended.

Orbán’s path to re-election is also complicated by high inflation, which is on track to reach its highest levels since 2008, and a row with the European Union over democratic standards, which has led to a freeze in funding for pandemic recovery.

Orban on Saturday accused the European Union of launching what he called a rule of law campaign against Hungary ahead of the European Court of Justice ruling next week on the legality of a new mechanism linking payments to member states to democratic standards.

To limit the impact of the price hike, Orban’s government placed limits on the cost of staple foods in February, extending caps already set on energy, fuel and mortgage borrowing prices.

“The price cap (on fuel) has worked, so we are extending this for another three months,” Orbansaid said.

This means that the rule setting retail fuel prices at 480 forints ($1.53) per liter, which was due to expire next week, will remain in place until May 15.

Despite price controls, Hungarian consumer prices rose at their fastest pace in nearly 15 years in January and core inflation rose, prompting analysts to raise inflation expectations and signal the need for further rate hikes.

Urbanhas also put a cap on interest rates on home loans to individuals until the end of June to protect borrowers from increased repayment costs after soaring inflation prompted the central bank to raise interest rates more than expected.

Orban’s government, which is giving households tax breaks and other measures totaling 1.8 trillion forints ($5.83 billion) in the run-up to the vote, expects economic growth to slow to about 5% this year from about 7% in 2021.

Orban’s Fidesz party led by two percentage points over the opposition coalition in a poll conducted by the Republicon polling institute in January and published last month.

Warning of “millions” of potential refugees In the speech, Orbán expressed hope that war in neighboring Ukraine could be avoided, while raising the possibility of hundreds of thousands of refugees seeking shelter in Hungary.

“Hungary’s interests are clear: first and foremost, war must be avoided,” Orban said in his speech.

“If war breaks out, hundreds of thousands or millions of refugees may come from Ukraine, which will completely redraw the political and economic landscape of Hungary.”

(Reuters)

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