BUDAPEST: Hungarian lawmakers on Monday re-elected President Janos Ader for a new five-year term, marking a comfortable victory for the right-wing government ally over his leftist rival.
Ader beat opposition candidate Laszlo Majtenyi in a second-round runoff by 131 votes to 39 in the 199-seat parliament.
The vote for the largely ceremonial presidential role was a mere formality given that the ruling Fidesz party of premier Viktor Orban holds close to a two-thirds majority.
Despite his defeat however, respected former ombudsman Majtenyi, 66, nonetheless managed a rare feat in this election -- uniting Hungary's normally warring leftist parties behind him.
In the last election five years ago, 57-year-old Ader ran uncontested.
But ahead of next year's general election, the fragmented left bloc -- made up of the Socialist Party and several smaller outfits -- has been trying to set aside its rifts and come up with a common strategy to take on Orban, in power since 2010.
His opponents have denounced the strongman for undermining key democratic institutions in sweeping reforms and stifling press freedom.
"(We need) a return to independent institutions guaranteeing our constitutional rights," Majtenyi said in a speech Monday.
Fidesz currently enjoys a comfortable lead over the Socialists and the radical right Jobbik party, which both vie for a distant second place.