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Polls open in Hungary

BUDAPEST, June 7 – Polls opened in Hungary Sunday in elections for the European Parliament, expected to bring a landslide victory of the Hungarian opposition.

About eight million eligible voters began casting ballots at 6:00 am (0400 GMT) on eight parties, with voter participation expected to exceed 40 percent after an election campaign themed predominantly around domestic politics.

The incumbent Socialists were heading for a crushing defeat, expected to grab four or five of the 22 Hungarian European Parliament seats, according to pollsters.

In turn, the conservative opposition Fidesz was most likely to carry the election with 70 percent of the vote, securing 15-16 mandates, polls show.

Hungary’s far-right party Jobbik was expected to win one or two seats.

Former government coalition members the liberals, a conservative party campaigning with a former socialist finance minister and the only Roma party of the EU-wide elections were unlikely to reach the five-percent threshold, according to analyst consensus.

Some 330 candidates are contesting for the 22 seats in 11,000 localities in Hungary.

Polling stations were to close at 7:00 pm (1700 GMT), while first preliminary results were to be disclosed at 10:00 pm (2000 GMT).

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Final results are to be published on June 13, according to the National Election Committee.

The country’s government, led by non-partisan Gordon Bajnai, introduced severe cost-cutting measures aimed to curb the public deficit, forecast at 3.9 percent of gross domestic product in 2009.

The measures which include pension and salary cuts drove the Socialists’s already dismal approval ratings under 20 percent and the party into disarray.

Hungary was severely hit by the economic meltdown and was saved from state bankrupcy only by a massive International Monetary Fund-led bailout last October.

Former prime minister Ferenc Gyurcsany resigned in March over his inability to push through parliament the spending cuts necessary to contain the public deficit.

An estimated 375 million voters across the 27-nation bloc are to elect 736 deputies for a five-year term at the parliament, which is the only directly-elected EU institution and has an important role passing pan-European legislation drafted by the EU Commission.

It also passes the commission’s annual budget which will be about 140 billion euros in 2010.

The parliament, which has struggled to strengthen its standing in the continent, is expected to stay under centre-right control.

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