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A by-election shows why Hungary’s opposition struggles

BORSOD IS A sweet spot in north-east Hungary, whichever way you look at it. It is home to a big chocolate factory (Szerencsi Bonbon), a caffeine-packed energy drink (Hell), and a pudding wine traditionally favoured by kings and queens on their wedding night (Tokay). It is also the place where the opposition to Viktor Orban, Hungary’s autocratic prime minister, is up against a challenge.

Opposition parties hope that a by-election on October 11th will give a boost to their efforts to combine and defeat Mr Orban’s Fidesz party at the general election scheduled for 2022. Success in Borsod 6, the constituency in question, would theoretically end Fidesz’s super-majority in the Hungarian parliament, which allows it to alter the constitution; it currently has 133 of the 199 seats. “This would be above all a symbolic victory,” says Peter Marki-Zay, a prominent critic of Mr Orban. “The result will determine the political mood of the next 18 months.”

The task will not be easy. The joint opposition candidate is Laszlo Biro, a local entrepreneur from the formerly far-right, though now centre-right, Jobbik party. Early in the campaign, openly anti-Semitic remarks surfaced from his Facebook page of two years ago. Since then, the campaign against him in the government-sponsored media has been relentless, while Hungary’s few remaining...

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