Hungary's far-right narrows gap on ruling Fidesz - pollster

By Marton Dunai

By Marton Dunai

BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Support for Hungary's radical nationalist party Jobbik hit a record high this month, according to an opinion poll published on Tuesday, eroding the lead that Prime Minister Viktor Orban's ruling centre-right Fidesz party has over its rivals.

The Ipsos survey put Jobbik on 18 percent, up two percentage points from its previous poll in February and just three percentage points behind Fidesz, which last April won a second consecutive four-year term in power.

Jobbik has vilified Hungary's large Roma population and has often lashed out at Jews. It favours a protectionist economic policy, wants to renegotiate Hungary's debt and backs a dilution of European Union influence in member states.

The Ipsos poll, conducted from March 6 to 13, showed Jobbik performing especially well among the under-30s, with 21 percent against 17 percent for Fidesz.

Ipsos said Jobbik had won over some 200,000 Fidesz supporters since the last election, raising its total number to 1.5 million people.

Other pollsters have not yet published their results for March. They have tended to give Fidesz a bigger lead but also put Jobbik in second place, ahead of the Socialists and others.

Support for Fidesz has ebbed after its plan to tax Internet data traffic triggered large protests. Corruption allegations, diplomatic disputes and policy inconsistencies have also eaten into support for the ruling party.

Fidesz has alienated its Western partners with a friendly stance toward Russia at a time of deepening conflict in Ukraine. Last month Fidesz lost its two-thirds parliamentary majority after losing a by-election.

The Socialists, who ruled Hungary from 2002 to 2010, had 12 percent support in the March survey, largely unchanged from previous months, while the green-liberal LMP party logged 3 percent, also broadly in line with previous results.

(Reporting by Marton Dunai; Editing by Gareth Jones)

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