“An election in Hungary”: Trials and tribulations of MDF

Kálmán Mikszáth, one of the great prose writers of Hungarian literature (1847-1910), wrote a novel entitled Two Elections in Hungary in which he painted an unfortunately all too realistic picture of electoral fraud in Hungarian elections during the period of the Dual Monarchy. The title of the summary of MDF's difficulties in obtaining permission to run in the coming election is a take-off on Mikszáth's novel, indicating that not much has changed in Hungary in the last hundred years or so. Fraud is still present in Hungarian political life, admittedly of a different kind from the older variety. Here a certain party by illegal means was trying to prevent another from running. Let's not beat around the bush. Almost everybody is certain that the guilty party is Fidesz.

To tell you the truth I don't even understand Fidesz's thinking on this score. After all, given the singularly bad relationship between Fidesz and MDF in the last few years it is unlikely that potential MDF voters would have voted for Fidesz if MDF had been knocked off the playing field. They most likely would have voted for MSZP or perhaps LMP. So I think that Fidesz propagandists went to a lot of trouble for nothing. First of all, MDF managed to run in most regions, including the most important place, Budapest, and second, the trials and tribulations of the party might actually attract more voters for MDF than would have been the case without the events of the last two weeks or so. One thing is sure. It was a close call. About a week before the elections MDF's fate was still up in the air.

The summary of events was written up by József Kajdi, who is the legal representative of the party. I received a copy of it in a Word document from an MDF politician, but a few days later it appeared in galamus.hu. It is a long, detailed description of what happened before the final word was uttered: the road is clear for MDF to run. I can't describe every trick mentioned in it but will concentrate on some of the most outrageous ones. For me the following story was perhaps the most dramatic. The MDF candidate in Székesfehérvár, István Göblyös, received a telephone call from a person unknown to him. The caller claimed that he was an acquaintance of another MDF candidate from Budapest and asked for a meeting. At the meeting the man from Budapest handed Göblyös 10 blank endorsement slips. After the man left Göblyös, who was suspicious, put the ten blank endorsement slips in an envelope and deposited them in a safe in front of witnesses. The same night HírTV showed a video taken with a hidden camera of the ten blank slips being handed to Göblyös and called the event a crime. The local election committee initiated a criminal investigation. Only an appeal to the National Election Committee annulled that decision. Keep in mind that HirTV is really Fidesz's mouthpiece.

In other places the local election committees tried to prevent MDF delegates from running even if they had all the necessary number of endorsements. Reasons were not given. That is what happened in Csongrád County. In other districts endorsements were invalidated, rendering the candidate ineligible to run. Gábor Slosár (Budapest,18th district) collected 957 endorsement out of which the local election committee rejected 310. On appeal the Capital City Election Committee ruled that 866 of the 957 slips were valid. The same thing happened to Zoltán Király (Budapest 4th district) who turned in 900 endorsements and the local election committee found 299 invalid. Again, the case was appealed and the Capital Election Committee, miracle of miracles, found 229 out of the 299 perfectly valid.

One could continue the account of attempts to stop MDF from even entering the race but it would take too long. Moreover, the legal wrangling around the the Budapest list is so complicated that I'm sure that most readers would get lost in the details. However, tomorrow I will report on some last minute efforts on the part of MDF's enemies that were used after all legal attempts failed. One thing is sure: this is a disgusting story and one that shakes what's left of trust in Hungarian politics.

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I imagine then that you were equally enraged when budahazy was disqualified from running due to large numbers of endorsements being rejected without explanation?

“To tell you the truth I don’t even understand Fidesz’s thinking on this score.” I would have thought it was obvious – it is about influencing the allocation of proportional seats through the territorial and the compensatory national lists, to make it easier to gain a two-thirds majority. It is quite simple – let me just illustrate it with two notional election results (these are just for illustration and not predictions). So in the first variant: FIDESZ 50, MSZP 20, Jobbik 18, MDF 5, LMP 5, Others 2 And in the second: FIDESZ 50, MSZP 20, Jobbik 18, MDF 4, LMP 4, Others 4 Because of the operation of the hurdle the effective share of votes for the allocation of seats is on the first variant: FIDESZ 51, MSZP 20.4, Jobbik 18.3, MDF 5.15, LMP 5.15, Other 0 But look at what happens in the second variant: FIDESZ 56.8, MSZP 22.7, Jobbik 20.5, Others 0 Though the situation is slightly more complicated than I present it because of the way in which the constituency votes contribute to the national list (though this merely strengthens the conclusion), having the MDF and LMP finish below 5% will add 7-8 seats alone to… Read more »

And just to add to this – by keeping the number of individual constituencies the LMP and MDF contest below 100, because of the way the national list operates FIDESZ have probably added 1-2 seats to their final total for no extra votes even if both LMP and MDF make it over 5%. What they have done – with Jobbik’s help (advertant or inadvertant) – is manipulate the weaknesses of the nomination system to boost their chances of a two-thirds majority by denying supporters of minor parties the opporunity of voting for candidates they support across the whole of the country.


Mark nails it: Fidesz and Jobbik have colluded in “manipulat[ing] the weaknesses of the nomination system to boost their chances of a two-thirds majority by denying supporters of minor parties the opporunity of voting for candidates they support across the whole of the country.”
And all the papers, from Index to Nepszabi, are complicit in this, perhaps the most outrageous case of electoral fraud since Hungary’s transition to democracy. There has been almost no reporting on this in even the more independent papers.
And the foreign newswires, whose job it is in these cases to shame the local press into getting off their segg, are sleeping on the job.
@Paul – if he was prevented from running by fraud, then of course it’s wrong. But there is at least the plausible alternative explanation that not too many people were interested in springing that jailbird.


The problem (aside of the ethical ones which are pretty obvious) are whether the electoral laws are sufficiently robust to ensure that Hungary can demonstrate its elections are “free and fair” according to interational standards. I suspect that if MDF doesn’t make 5% it might have a case before the European Court.


To Paul the Jobbik troll: Budahazy is a violent nationalist crook who, like several other bent Hungarian politicians, is trying to get into parliament merely to benefit from immunity. It will not affect Jobbik’s results in any way. Moreover, far from your blatant untruth that there was ‘no explanation’ Budahazy was clearly guilty of fraud, mainly due to the stupidity of his supporters. Having dead people sign your support slips for you is somewhat of a giveaway.
MDP however was victim of an elaborate stitch up. There could be a discussion on the extent to which this is fraud or ‘merely’ a very dirty tricks campaign.