With 74% of the votes counted in Budapest, Gergely Karacsony was leading Istvan Tarlos by 50.1% to 44.8% and local media reported that Tarlos had called to congratulate his rival. Opposition parties were also projected to win mayoral races in around 10 of the country's 23 largest cities in nationwide local elections. In 2014, they won just three of those races.
At near 50%, Sunday's voting had one of the highest voter turnouts in local elections since Hungary's 1990 return to democracy. Despite the disappointing results, analysts said they expect Orban, who led his party to landslide victories in all major elections since 2010, to continue with his combative style which includes strong anti-migrant policies, increasing domination of the media and a centralized power structure built around the prime minister's office.
Partial results are showing significant gains for opposition candidates over Prime Minister Viktor Orban's Fidesz party in nationwide local elections.
The voting is projected to have one of the highest voter turnouts in local elections since Hungary's 1990 return to democracy.
In Budapest, the capital, Gergely Karacsony, supported by a wide range of opposition groups, had built a significant lead over Istvan Tarlos, the Fidesz-backed incumbent.
With nearly 35% of the votes counted, Karacsony was leading Tarlos 49.4% to 45.4%.
Opposition parties were also improving their results compared to 2014 in Hungary's 23 largest cities. While Fidesz candidates won in 20 of the 23 cities five years ago, now its candidates were ahead in 13 cities, with the opposition leading in 10.
Officials have begun counting votes cast in Hungary's local elections, with a more unified opposition trying to dent the prolonged power of Prime Minister Viktor Orban's Fidesz party.
Sunday's election is projected to have one of the highest voter turnouts in local elections since Hungary's 1990 return to democracy. The race for Budapest, the capital, was expected to be close.
A half-hour before the end of voting, turnout was 47.2%.
Inundated by more personal scandals of politicians than any previous election in the past 30 years, analysts saw the strong turnout as motivating voters but were unsure whether it was more favorable to Fidesz — one of whose mayors was at the center of the most shocking revelations, including an orgy on a yacht — or the opposition, where several parties across the political spectrum joined in support of a single, joint candidate in many cities, towns and districts.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban's dominant right-wing Fidesz party was facing a challenge Sunday from opposition parties who are backing joint candidates in many cities in the country's nationwide local election.
Fidesz has been easily winning local, national and European Parliament elections since 2010, but a more unified opposition and the release of a video showing one of the party's best-known mayors, former Olympic champion gymnast Zsolt Borkai, participating in an orgy on a yacht shook up the last days of the campaign.
The sex scandal has visibly flustered Orban's party, whose officials initially called it a private matter. The conservative Fidesz, which since 2015 has made its reputation on anti-migration policies, also casts itself as a defender of Christian and family values.
In Hungary's most closely-watched vote, Budapest Mayor Istvan Tarlos, who is not a member of Fidesz but is backed by Orban's party, was running against Gergely Karacsony, a district leader in Budapest who is supported by five left-wing, Green and liberal parties.
More than 8 million people were eligible to vote for over 3,000 mayors and 17,200 local council members elected for five-year terms.