Hungary opposition says fair elections in jeopardy

March 30, 2014

voting

Hungary opposition demands investigation into alleged sharing among upstart parties of endorsement signatures.

Hungary’s opposition alliance has called for an immediate investigation into the list of candidates appointed to run for the upcoming parliamentary elections as there is evidence to suggest parties used duplicated data and swapped signatures in order to qualify for public campaign funds amounting to tens or hundreds of millions of forints.  Based on signatures collected from qualified voters in 106 electoral districts, the National Election Committee registered the national lists of eighteen parties.

Changes to the election law coming into force earlier this year allowed voters to endorse the candidacy of more than candidate.  Each registered party was issued sequentially numbered signature forms bearing numbers unique to that party with which to collect signatures. Reportedly several parties copies signatures and data from one another’s signature forms in order to qualify for between HUF 149 million (USD 662,000) and HUR 597 million (USD 2.65 million) in public campaign funds.   

According to Together-PM co-chairman Gordon Bajnai the Fidesz-KDNP government has not only made it possible for “business parties, fake parties, and satellite parties” to contest elections but motivated them financially as well.

According to the Opposition Alliance this evidence proves that the governing party is manipulating the system for its own benefit instead of ensuring a fair, democratic, electoral process. Allegedly, the organizations in charge of running a fair election and the police have continually dismissed and rejected requests for investigations claiming it is not their jobs to verify the legitimacy of signatures gathered by a party, as they can only supervise and oversee procedures. The opposition sees this as proof that the governing party is manipulating the system to its own advantage.

A viral video on the internet featuring a former activist of The Hungarian Gypsy party depicts five ways a party can cheat in order to be appointed. “This is more proof that supports the suspicions that this new electoral system bleeds from a thousand wounds, and the flaws [in the system] favour FIDESZ staying in power,” reads a statement issued by the opposition alliance.

Hungary will be closely watched by The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Following significant, far-reaching changes to the electoral system, the OSCE hopes to add transparency to the elections as international observers, and hopes that Hungary will proceed according to the democratic commitments outlined in The OSCE’s 1990 Copenhagen Document.

The spokesperson for the opposition alliance states that if the Orban government does not do everything necessary to investigate the legitimacy of the appointed candidates, then it is indirectly admitting to swaying the election.

On Friday police arrested Magyar Democratic Union (MDU) founder and chairman Laszlo Urban-Szabo.  He has been charged with defrauding third parties of some HUF 30 million (USD 130,000) which he had intended to repay with public campaign funds obtained from the government.  Unfortunately for Urban-Laszlo MDU did not succeed in collecting enough signatures to run national lists and was therefore disqualified from receiving public campaign funds.

Referenced in this article:

Bajnai a “bizonyítéknak látszó tárgyakról” és a választási csalásról, Nol.hu; 25 March 2014

Veszélybe került a választások tisztasága, Nepszava.hu; 25 March 2014

OSCE parliamentarians to observe Hungary’s upcoming elections; pre-visit completed today, Oscepa.org; 20 March 2014

Rács mögött egy kamupárt elnöke, blikk.hu, 29 March 2014