Eight opposition parties sign joint declaration on election reform at Agóra

September 25, 2017

Eight opposition parties sign joint declaration on election reform at Agóra
Photo: The Budapest Beacon

Eight opposition political parties signed a joint declaration proposing new electoral reforms Saturday evening at the Agóra, a temporary civil debate venue in front of Parliament, as part of an initiative by activist Márton Gulyás’ Common Country Movement.

Except the far-right Jobbik party, all of Hungary’s opposition parties participated in the weeks-long negotiations and finally agreed to the proposal Saturday, which calls for a more proportional voting system based on the German model. The deal also includes a call for a provision boosting women’s presence in Parliament and making it much easier for Hungarian citizens living and working abroad to vote. The precise details of the deal have yet to be made public, and work on turning the proposal into formal draft legislation will commence over the coming days.

Signatories of the deal present at the Agóra on Saturday included former prime minister Ferenc Gyurcsány, Socialist (MSZP) party chairman Gyula Molnár, Together (Együtt) chairman Péter Juhász, Dialogue for Hungary (PM) co-chair Gergely Karácsony, and Momentum politician Anna Orosz.

Several representatives noted that they are accepting the common platform with some disagreements. Gyurcsány noted that his party does not support the fact that Hungarian citizens who have never lived in Hungary — a reference to ethnic Hungarians in surrounding countries — get to vote.

But despite the enthusiastic rhetoric, multiple politicians made it clear that they don’t believe Fidesz will accept their proposal.

“We are not naïve, we don’t have illusions” said Socialist leader Molnár. “We will defeat Fidesz under the old electoral system in 2018.”

Following the signing ceremony, representatives of civil society addressed the crowd. András Horváth, a whistleblower and former employee at Hungary’s tax authority, Kishantos farm director Mrs. Sándor Ács, teacher and Tanítanék (I Would Teach) movement figure Katalin Törlei, and former Christian Democrat (KDNP) member Katalin Lukácsi all called for a more just country.

“I think that from the speeches of party representatives and civil movement representatives here it can be understood exactly that just governance is not only important because of who gets how many seats in Parliament,” Common Country founder Márton Gulyás told the crowd. “No, just governance is needed so that we can finally get rid of all the injustices of this country once and for all.”

Gulyás noted that once the legal text of the proposal is completed, there will be an effort to present it to both the governing parties (Fidesz-KDNP) and the one opposition party not present at the Agóra, Jobbik.

A standing-room only crowd at the Agóra included a diverse range of activists and political figures, from Common Country members to Ligetvédők (Park Protectors) activist Nikoletta Antall, and 84-year-old 1956 figure and politician Imre Mécs.

Gulyás announced that the Agóra will now begin a countrywide tour.

“We feel a responsibility to carry this message to as many parts of the country as possible: that there is, indeed, hope,” said Gulyás, adding that he will return to the current site of the Agóra for a protest on October 23, the national holiday to commemorate the Hungarian Revolution of 1956.