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Hungarians outside Hungary might strengthen Orbán's power base

Elections

A Hungarian government programme to grant ethnic Hungarians abroad the right to vote has handed Prime Minister Viktor Orbán an advantage that could, in a close election, keep him in power, Reuters said. Several million ethnic Hungarians live in neighbouring Romania, Serbia and Ukraine and elsewhere, descendants of Hungarians who found themselves outside their homeland when the country's borders were redrawn at the end of World War One. Using a change in citizenship rules pushed through by Orbán's Fidesz party, nearly half a million members of the diaspora have applied for Hungarian citizenship, which gives them the right to register to take part in elections, including a parliamentary vote next year. Orbán's supporters say they gave the right to vote to the diaspora not for political advantage but as part of a mission to re-unite a scattered Hungarian community. Many other countries also give passports and voting rights to diasporas. The votes of Hungarians abroad would only play a significant role if an election is on a knife-edge, say political analysts. By the time of the 2014 election, the Budapest government estimates that some half a million people, equivalent to five percent of Hungary's population, will have received Hungarian citizenship. Most are in Romania, Serbia, Ukraine and the United States. Analysts estimate the number of votes cast from abroad could be anywhere from 100,000 to 500,000. They could determine who wins one to three seats in parliament, out of a total of 199. "If we look at the 2002 results, it is possible that several hundred thousand additional votes for Fidesz would have made a difference," said Róbert László, an election systems expert at think tank Political Capital. Based on the latest polls, Fidesz seems a clear favourite over a divided opposition. But with half of the eight million domestic voters undecided, surprises cannot be ruled out.

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