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OSCE slams 'xenophobia', 'media bias' in Hungary vote

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Budapest (AFP)

Hungarian voters' ability to make a fully informed choice in the country's election was impaired by xenophobic rhetoric and media bias reducing real political debate, OSCE monitors said Monday.

"Voters had a wide range of political options, but intimidating and xenophobic rhetoric, media bias and opaque campaign financing constricted the space for genuine political debate, hindering voters? ability to make a fully informed choice," the OSCE said.

It added that the technical administration was "professional and transparent" and that fundamental rights and freedoms were "respected overall, but exercised in an adverse climate".

Access to information and freedom of the media and association were "restricted", it said, while noting a "pervasive overlap between state and ruling party resources".

Media coverage was extensive, yet highly polarised and lacking in critical analysis, it added. The public broadcaster's output "clearly favoured the ruling coalition".

Women remain under-represented in the central European country's political life and there are no legal requirements to promote gender equality in the electoral context, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) added.

Right-wing Prime Minister Viktor Orban secured a third straight term in the election, with his Fidesz party winning almost half the vote, likely giving it a two-thirds majority in parliament.

Orban, 54, has long been accused of muzzling the media by bringing public broadcasters under close state control and allowing rich allies to buy up independent media.

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