BUDAPEST, Hungary: Conservative provincial mayor Peter Marki-Zay, a political outsider with no party affiliation, won an opposition run-off primary on Sunday, becoming the main rival of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban in next year's election.
Marki-Zay, 49, will now lead a united opposition, with opinion polls suggesting he has the best chance of ousting Orban, whose right-wing Fidesz party has been in power since 2010.
"We want a new, cleaner, honest Hungary, not just to replace Orban or his party," Marki-Zay told supporters in Budapest.
After gaining a 20-point lead, Marki-Zay's centre-left opponent Klara Dobrev congratulated him on his victory and urged the opposition to unite.
Fidesz has benefited from the fragmentation of opposition parties but, for the first time, Orban will face a united opposition that also includes socialists, liberals and the formerly far-right, but now centre-right, Jobbik party.
The new opposition leader, who has lived in both the U.S. and Canada, made a name for himself in 2018 when he won the mayoral election in the southern town of Hodmezovasarhely, which was considered a Fidesz stronghold.
He has also portrayed himself as a palatable option for voters from both the left and right, many of whom oppose Orban's divisive policies, especially his anti-immigration and anti-LGBTQ policies.
"We want to get rid of the big boys bullying the whole class," Marki-Zay stressed, while vowing to counter corruption and heal social divisions.
In a statement, Fidesz said Marki-Zay had signed a pact with the political left to help them return to power and raise taxes, labelling him a "career leftist."