Ágnes Kunhalmi barred from checking fraudulent candidacy endorsement documents

March 20, 2018

Photo: MSZP

Hungarian Socialist Party (MSZP) MP and president of the Budapest chapter Ágnes Kunhalmi (pictured) has been denied access to documents endorsing the candidacy of rival candidates suspected of containing forged signatures by the Budapest 18th district notary, reports index.hu.

Index.hu reported earlier in March that police had impounded the endorsement signature pages of With Momentum For Hungary (LM) [not to be confused with Momentum Movement – ed.] president and candidate Katalin Lévai, who was attempting to get her name on the ballot in Budapest’s 8th electoral district (covering much of Budapest’s 14th district). Police started an investigation after the local Election Office determined that numerous nomination forms handed in by Lévai show an exact match with those of the Fidesz candidate in the electoral district. The nomination forms contained many duplicate nominations, including duplicated signatures of local Fidesz councilmen.

Although Lévai, a former minister in Péter Medgyessy’s cabinet and MEP, herself earlier suggested the local Election Office check her nominations thoroughly as she suspected fraud, it soon turned out that Lévai and her party might be complicit and not the victims of the fraud.

After Lévai was barred from running in Budapest’s 14th district, the Election Office of Budapest’s 5th electoral district (spanning the 6th and 7th districts of Budapest) revealed that in 341 cases, nominations of the LM candidate match those of the Fidesz candidate. Democratic Coalition (DK) MP and candidate Lajos Oláh, whose delegate to the Election Office revealed the irregularities, stated that on at least nine occasions nomination forms of the Fidesz and LM candidates contained signatures of voters who were either deceased or had moved from the district. Oláh filed a report with the police claiming election fraud.

As a precautionary measure, Hungarian Socialist Party-Dialogue (MSZP-P) candidate in Budapest’s 15th individual electoral district Ágnes Kunhalmi requested through her delegate to the local Election Office an opportunity to inspect the nomination forms of the local LM and Fidesz candidates. As she is running in a real swing district where in 2014 the Fidesz candidate László Kucsák only beat her by 56 votes, it is imperative for Kunhalmi to weed out fake candidates who would further divide the opposition vote.

However, citing the National Election Committee’s (NVB) guidelines, district notary Ildikó Molnár rejected Kunhalmi’s request, arguing that NVB had not authorized her delegate to hand over the suspicious nomination forms to Kunhalmi’s delegate. Earlier Politics Can Be Different (LMP) candidate Dániel Kassai filed a report with the police as he found out that eight parties running candidates in the district had abused his personal information by forging his signature. Endorsement signature forms of Fidesz and LM are reportedly not being investigated by the police.

By Hungarian election law, voters can endorse the nomination of any number of candidates in their respective electoral districts.  However, voters are required to do so in person. Copying the personal information and signature of voters from one nomination form to another is strictly forbidden and constitutes electoral fraud. The 2013 modification of the election law by the Fidesz-Christian Democratic People’s Party-dominated National Assembly made it much easier for parties to run candidates and a national list, paving the way for scores of bogus parties to emerge just before the election, only to vanish once they received state campaign subsidiaries amounting to hundreds of millions of forints. Many opposition politicians complained after the 2014 election that candidates of these bogus parties contributed to Fides-KDNP’s two-thirds parliamentary majority by further dividing the opposition vote and confusing voters.