Hungary's far-right party, Jobbik, appears to have gained political ground from ruling party Fidesz. The controversial political group has drawn international criticism for its anti-Semitic and anti-Roma rhetoric.
On Sunday, Hungarians cast ballots in a by-election aimed at filling the seat of deceased lawmaker and Fidesz party member Jeno Laszotovicza.
However, preliminary results appeared to show the vacant parliamentary seat changing hands from Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban's ruling Fidesz party to rival party Jobbik.
With 99 percent of votes counted, Jobbik's Lajos Rig won 35.3 percent of the vote, narrowly edging out Fidesz's Zoltan Fenyvesi who had 34.4 percent. Ferenc Pad of the Socialist Party trailed behind with 26.3 percent of the vote.
"The mood in Hungary is for a change of government and with Jobbik Hungary finally has a force to change the government," Jobbik President Gabor Vona told supporters on Sunday evening.
Orban has lost support over controversial measures and, most recently, over allegedly cosying up to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Downward spiral for Orban's party?
If the results are confirmed, the victory would be the second straight defeat for Fidesz since February, when it lost its super-majority in parliament.
"Fidesz is caught in a downward spiral from which it will be very difficult to exit," said Peter Krausz, an analyst at Budapest's Policy Agenda told the Associated Press news agency.
However, Krausz added that the likely victory for Jobbik did not put the far-right party close to power in Budapest.
"It seems impossible that anyone in the United States or Europe would accept a Jobbik government," Krausz said. "What looks certain for now is that many of the voters disillusioned with Fidesz are supporting Jobbik instead."
Jobbik's rhetoric has raised concerns about anti-Semitism in the eastern European country.
On Sunday, the head of the World Jewish Congress, Ronald Lauder, warned of the extremist group's rise during a rally in Budapest, where thousands gathered to pay tribute to the country's Holocaust victims.
kms/jil (AP, Reuters)