BUDAPEST (Reuters) – Budapest mayor Gergely Karacsony quit the race on Friday to be the Hungarian opposition’s candidate in a national election next year, saying he would back conservative Peter Marki-Zay in a bid to unseat Prime Minister Viktor Orban.
The move could weaken the chances of Klara Dobrev, the leftist Democratic Coalition’s candidate, who last week won the first round of the primary vote that will select the leader of the united opposition for the election next spring.
Karacsony came in second in the primary, ahead of Marki-Zay, mayor of the southern Hungarian city of Hodmezovasarhely. Dobrev won 34.8% of the votes, Karacsony had 27.3%, and Marki-Zay had just over 20% of votes.
“I believe that Peter Marki-Zay can unite the opposition,” Karacsony said, adding that Marki-Zay knew the problems of the countryside.
Orban’s ruling Fidesz party is traditionally strong in smaller towns and villages.
In next year’s parliamentary vote Orban will, for the first time since he came to power in 2010, face a united front of opposition parties that also includes the Socialists, the liberals and the formerly far-right – and now centre-right – Jobbik.
Opinion polls put Orban’s nationalist Fidesz party and the opposition coalition neck and neck, raising the prospect of the tightest election in more than a decade.
The second round of the primary will take place between Oct. 10 and 16, the organizers announced on Sunday.
(Reporting by Krisztina Than; Editing by Toby Chopra)