The National Assembly has passed a law intended to keep fake parties away from the 2018 election, reports Magyar Nemzet.
The modification of the law on party financing drafted by Fidesz MPs Gergely Gulyás and Róbert Répássy was accepted with 184 yes and two no votes. All four Democratic Coalition MPs absented themselves from the vote.
The 2013 election law, passed by the Fidesz-Christian Democratic People’s Party supermajority, made it extremely easy to run for parliament because a candidate needed to gather only 500 signatures in their constituency as voters could recommend multiple candidates. Political parties and movements needed candidates in only 27 electoral districts, in at least nine counties and Budapest to be able to run a national party list and qualify for state campaign funds of between HUF 149.25 million (USD 561,000) and HUF 597 million (USD 2.24 million), the latter for parties running candidates in all 106 electoral districts.
The 2014 elections were contested by some 16 parties, a record in Hungary’s electoral history. After the elections, it turned out that many parties and movements had submitted fake signatures and recommendations in order to be able to run candidates. Investigations into the actions of these fake parties were all terminated without an indictment.
According to the new modification of the law, those parties whose national list receives less than one percent of votes in a general election will have to pay back the funds they received from the central budget. Henceforth, parties that withdraw their candidates, whose candidates step back, or whose list of candidates is disqualified by the National Election Office, will be legally obligated to return the state campaign funds. In the event a party incurs such an obligation, then members of its leading body will be severally and collectively responsible for repaying the debt.
According to the law, parties will have to name the members of their respective leading body before receiving the actual campaign funds. Based on the law, once the parties submit their national list, their selected leaders will be personally responsible. Even presidium members withdrawing from elections or quitting the party will be personally liable.
Under the law, the State Audit Office (ÁSZ) will inspect the expenditures of those parties that manage to receive at least one percent of votes cast. However, the current law does not specify what information such parties must submit to state auditors.
In 2014, 12 such parties running national party lists received less than one percent of votes cast. As of September 2017, there are 222 registered parties in Hungary and another 177 are currently under registration.