Joint proposal for electoral reform issued by Country For All Movement, opposition parties

October 17, 2017

Joint proposal for election reform released by Country For All Movement, eight opposition parties
Delegates of eight opposition parties before signing the joint declaration on election reform on September 25, 2017. Photo: Facebook/Közös Ország Mozgalom

The final legal proposal for election reform that was jointly prepared by eight opposition parties under the auspices of the Country For All Movement (Közös Ország Mozgalom) has been published, and is set to be formally presented to the National Assembly by parliamentary parties Politics Can Be Different (LMP), the Hungarian Socialist Party (MSZP), Együtt (Together), the Liberals, and Dialogue for Hungary (PM). The entire 26-page bill can be read in Hungarian here.

According to 444.hu‘s reading of the bill, the most important elements are as follows:

  • the proposal maintains the individual voting districts and party lists, but stipulates that a given party can only be present in Parliament in a proportion equal to or lower than the proportion of total votes it received countrywide. (444.hu notes that ruling party Fidesz currently occupies a much higher proportion of seats in Parliament than the votes it received: in 2014, it got 44 percent of votes but took two-thirds of parliamentary seats.)
  • the proposal would increase the number of parliamentary representatives from 199 to 222, with 110 being chosen among candidates in individual voting districts and 110 through party lists, and two being elected by Hungarian dual-citizens living abroad.
  • the threshold for a party to form a parliamentary delegation would be reduced from 5 to 4 percent.
  • an independent committee would be tasked with redrawing electoral districts based solely on demographic data (the bill’s sponsors argue that the current lines were drawn to serve Fidesz’s political interests).
  • the proposal would require that three representatives of the same gender may not appear consecutively on party lists (i.e. every third representative on party lists must be a woman).
  • the proposal would combat bogus political parties running for election to secure public funds by tightening requirements on such parties to repay campaign contributions in the case of unsuccessful campaigns.

According to the authors of the bill, the electoral system they propose reflects those of Germany and New Zealand. In addition to modifying the gerrymandered voting districts it would eliminate the current compensation for election victors (which favors Fidesz), as well as corrupt campaign financing practices and unfair disparities in voting procedures between Hungarian citizens residing abroad and dual citizens living in neighboring countries.

The completed bill was initially set to be revealed by September 20 but ran into delays, only being released on October 16. The Country For All Movement promised it would organize acts of civil disobedience if the National Assembly did not adopt election reform by the symbolic October 23 national holiday, but due to the significant delay in the completing of the bill, 444.hu asked the movement whether it could expect the National Assembly to act on a 26-page document that entails the complete restructuring of a national election system.

Country For All responded by saying that their actions will depend on whether the governing party appears open to negotiations with regard to the proposed electoral reform. If it does not, the movement said, or if the bill is dismissed out of hand and does not go before the National Assembly, then the acts of civil disobedience will go on as planned.

A joint opposition protest, consisting of all opposition parties with the exception of far-right Jobbik, was planned by the Country For All Movement for October 23 at Kossuth Square in front of Parliament. However, after several parties pulled out, the movement and its leader Márton Gulyás announced that no joint demonstration would take place, and civil activists would instead hold a protest on the national holiday.