Hungary’s six-party opposition coalition selects political outsider to challenge Viktor Orban in next year’s election
Marki-Zay, a Catholic with seven children and no party affiliation, beat Klara Dobrev, an MEP from the left-leaning Democratic Coalition (DK).
The move might inspire divided oppositions in other European countries like the UK and Poland.
The six-party opposition alliance was formed to overcome Hungary’s largely first-past-the-post electoral system that has favoured Orban’s Fidesz party since he took power in 2010.
Social Democrat Dobrev, vice-president of the European Parliament, pledged to support Marki-Zay to lead the six opposition parties. “I wish him a lot of strength … in our effort to unseat Viktor Orban and then dismantle his regime,” the defeated candidate told the media.
Her candidacy faced the challenge of her marriage to former prime minister Ferenc Gyurcsany, who was the target of protests in 2006 and is one of Hungary’s most divisive political figures.
Marki-Zay’s family image and Christianity could appeal to undecided voters as he seeks to attract left- and right-wing support, promising to end Orban’s corruption.
“We can only win together,” Marki-Zay told his cheering supporters. “Viktor Orban doesn’t have to be afraid of me but of all of you.
“This was a battle but we have to win the war as well,” the mayor of the small southern town of Hodmezovasarhely said, in reference to next year’s election.
Hungary’s first-ever primary contest was designed to select one candidate to oppose Orban and single candidates in each constituency against Fidesz members. The election for Hungary’s 199 parliamentary seats is due next April.
The opposition coalition says cooperation is the only way to overcome what the parties say is an unbalanced media and an electoral system designed to give Fidesz an inbuilt advantage.
Marki-Zay, 47, a small-town conservative, entered the primary as an independent without the political support or financial backing of any of the six opposition parties.
He pledged to work with the coalition against Orban’s “corrupt dictatorship”.
“We are very happy and very hopeful that next year we can also prove we can build a coalition that can change the history of Hungary,” Marki-Zay told the media.
Peter Marki-Zay’s victory speech with his seven children behind. Picture credit: YouTube