Hungary’s election system is full of loopholes that resourceful bogus parties are eager to take advantage of. Even though last November the National Assembly passed a law intended to keep fake parties away from the 2018 election, the system is still wide open to abuse. One of the most telling signs of this is that since the official deadline for parties to submit candidacy endorsement forms passed, dozens of irregularities have been reported nationwide about forged signatures and fraudulent endorsement forms.
Perhaps no other electoral district saw as many bogus candidates and fraudulent candidacy endorsement forms as Budapest’s 17th. In the electoral district which encompasses Budapest’s 21st and 23rd districts, personal data of deceased people were found on endorsement forms of 23 (mostly bogus) parties.
Hungarian news site index.hu attempted to uncover how this was possible. Reporters of the news site contacted leaders and organizers of numerous bogus parties that had submitted irregular candidacy endorsement forms in Budapest’s 17th electoral district. Although the party leaders and organizers responded with varying enthusiasm (some were outright hostile), it soon turned out that none of the candidates personally knew the activists who had collected endorsements in the electoral district on their behalf.
Based on index.hu’s findings, it seems that some of the parties were contacted by the so-called activists themselves who offered to collect endorsements for them for a fee. Some parties were recommended by other parties to contact the mysterious activists-for-rent.
One party leader told index.hu that in another electoral district he had been offered 500 candidacy endorsements, the minimum required for running as a candidate, for HUF 500,000 (USD 2,000). Another party leader admitted that though the endorsements were collected by hired activists, the endorsement forms were eventually signed and submitted by the party’s own activists because the hired collectors were not willing to reveal their names.
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. Candidacy endorsement collectors also have to provide their name and sign the endorsement forms before submitting them to the local election office. Copying the personal information and signature of voters from one nomination form to another is strictly forbidden and constitutes electoral fraud.
As none of the contacted party leaders, candidates and organizers were able or willing to provide any sort of contact information to the anonymous activists it is still unknown who is behind the seemingly systematic fraud. It is worth noting, however, that bogus parties seem to prosper in those electoral districts where the opposition has a good chance of defeating the Fidesz candidate.