Parliament will not debate joint proposal for electoral reform

November 14, 2017

Parliament will not debate joint proposal for electoral reform
Leader of the Socialists’ parliamentary group Bertalan Tóth | Photo: MTI/Attila Kovács

Hungary’s Parliamentary Committee on Justice discussed an electoral reform proposal jointly developed by a number of opposition parties for two hours on Monday.  In the end, the Fidesz-KDNP members of the committee voted not to forward the proposal to the National Assembly for debate, reports.

According to MSZP delegation leader and co-sponsor of the bill Bertalan Tóth, the Committee on Justice declining to send the proposal to the National Assembly for open discussion shows that “Fidesz is not brave enough to measure itself in a proportional election system.” Tóth said the Fidesz members of the committee called the present election system “suitable, proportional and democratic.”

The 26-page proposal, signed by leaders of eight opposition parties (excluding far-right Jobbik), outlines what its authors call a more proportional election system whereby a party could only occupy a proportion of seats in the National Assembly equal to or less than the proportion of total votes it received (this would make such a result as the 2014 election, where Fidesz won 44 percent of the vote but secured two-thirds of the seats in Parliament, impossible). The proposal would also set up an independent commission to redraw voting districts based exclusively on demographic data, and lower the vote threshold for parties to enter Parliament from 5 to 4 percent.

Justice Committee member Imre Vas (Fidesz) reportedly argued that such a new election system would be a “step back,” to which member Gábor Staudt (Jobbik) responded it would only be a step back for Fidesz’s mandate. Member Róbert Répássy (Fidesz) remarked that the proposal was a mere “charade”, and said the opposition parties hoped to use the lack of a new electoral system as an excuse to contest the legitimacy of an election which they are sure to lose.

Fidesz-KDNP members also reportedly argued that the general election, which by law must be held by no later than May next year, is too close to begin changing rules (ignoring, as points out, the fact that Fidesz itself proposed and passed a bill tightening rules on campaign financing only on Tuesday).