Every second voter wants change but Fidesz may win super majority again; Kim Scheppele’s “Hungary, An Election in Question, Part 3″

Here is living proof of the unfairness of the new Hungarian election law enacted by the current government party, Fidesz. While according to the latest poll every second person would like to see a change of government, the prediction is that if nothing changes between now and April 6, Fidesz will again have a two-thirds majority of the seats in parliament. Therefore, I strongly suggest that readers study Professor Kim Scheppele’s article on the Orbán government’s election law.

And there is a second oddity. While the country’s prime minister, Viktor Orbán, misses no opportunity to show the European Union in a negative light, a recent poll indicates that the reputation of the European Union is on the rise in Hungary. Hungarians are a great deal more enthusiastic about the European Union than the average European citizen: 47% as opposed to 31% have a positive view of the Union. They even have a better opinion of the economic well being of Europe than most people and therefore may not believe the Orbán slogan “Hungary performs better” since they know that Hungary’s economic situation is not exactly rosy. It seems that Orbán’s war of independence mostly fell on deaf ears.

Although half of the electorate would like to see a different government, in the polls Fidesz leads by a mile. Among the population eligible to vote Fidesz comes in at 47% as opposed to the democratic opposition’s 29%. The government party lost a bit of its popularity in February but the united opposition which, by the way, wisely changed its name from Összefogás (unity) to “Kormányváltás” (change of government) hasn’t moved an inch. It was necessary to change the name of the united democratic opposition because a right-wing party already calls itself Összefogás Pártja (party of unity). I should add here that there might be close to 40 parties on the ballot, most of them total unknowns. It will be darned difficult even to find the democratic opposition on the list; by lottery it “won” thirty-first place.

How can we account for the discrepancy between the wishes of the population and the numbers of the pollsters? According to Medián, the answer might lie in the group that at the moment cannot find a party to vote for. In this part of the electorate 47% of the voters would like to see Viktor Orbán go while only 14% of these people are supporters of the current government. The question is whether this group will be inspired enough to go and vote or will stay at home, believing that the result is preordained.

blue: total population; green: citizens eligible to vote; red: determined voters

blue: total population; green: citizens eligible to vote; red: determined voters

One worrisome bit of news is that Jobbik has improved in the standings. Among both eligible and active voters 18% would vote for this neo-Nazi party. Compare that to Kormányváltás’s 29% and 30%. 

When it comes to the popularity of politicians, no politician is really popular in Hungary because even the most popular has only 49%. At the head of the list are Fidesz politicians, but for the first time we find Jobbik’s Gábor Vona’s name among the top ten, right between Lajos Kósa and Tibor Navracsics. It seems that the most hated politician is not Ferenc Gyurcsány anymore but Rózsa Hoffman. Zsolt Semjén and András Schiffer are both near the bottom of the list.

* * *

Hungary: An Election in Question

Part III: Compensating the Winners

Kim Lane Scheppele, Princeton University

Election analysts have predicted that the democratic opposition in Hungary cannot win a majority in the parliament if it produces a tied vote or even pulls somewhat ahead of Fidesz in the final vote. Instead, the allied opposition parties will have to get as many as 6-8% more votes than Fidesz to gain a simple parliamentary majority, mainly because of gerrymandered districts. But that’s not the only Fidesz-friendly element of the new electoral system.

 If Fidesz wins these new single-member districts by substantial margins, Fidesz’ parliamentary representation will then be boosted even more by a novel system of “compensation votes.” To understand how this works, we need to understand how proportional representation (PR) systems are typically structured.

In PR systems, compensation is typically awarded in the calculation of final results to ensure that the distribution of seats in the legislature is as close as possible to the distribution of votes cast by the electorate. That’s what makes them proportional. For example, German parties are compensated by gaining extra votes in their party list totals when their candidates win a lower share of individual constituencies than the popular vote would predict.

Hungary’s system for awarding compensation based on the results in the single-member districts used to be quite similar to the German one, but no longer. The new electoral system now bizarrely compensates not just the losers, but also the winners. This new system increases the winner’s victory margin to create even more of a “winner take all” system. This will most likely ensure that the final tally of votes moves farther from the distribution of votes in the population as a whole rather than closer to the overall distribution, as PR systems typically ensure.

In short, majorities are magnified into super-majorities under this new system.

The new system of compensation is complicated and counterintuitive, so let’s start with the basics.

What is a “lost vote”? A lost vote is a vote for a candidate who loses. If, for example, you are voting in a district that has Red, Green and Yellow parties on offer and you vote for the Yellow candidate, who loses, your vote is considered “lost.” But that lost vote is used instead to help the party you voted for get an extra boost when party-list mandates are calculated. As a result, you are compensated for having “wasted” your vote for the individual candidate by having your vote supplement the party-list totals instead. This is the system Hungary had for compensating lost votes in the individual districts from 1990-2010.

Let’s take an example. Suppose the Red party wins a district with 500 votes while the Green party gets 200 votes and the Yellow party 100 votes. Under the old Hungarian compensation scheme, 200 votes for the Greens and 100 votes for the Yellows would be added to the Green and Yellow party-list votes so that those parties gained in strength when party-list mandates were determined.

Under the Fidesz reforms, however, not only do the Green and Yellow parties get compensation, but now the Red party also will be deemed to have “lost votes” in this election despite having actually won the seat.

How did the winning party “lose” votes? Some Red votes are counted as “lost” because the mandate could have been won with only 201 votes and yet the Red party got 500, exceeding what the party strictly needed to win the mandate. So under the new Fidesz system, 299 votes – the number of votes beyond those necessary to win – are considered lost and are added to the votes for the Red party when party-list seats are awarded.

Under Hungary’s new election system, then, the party winning an individual constituency will be awarded not only that particular mandate, but also extra points in the party-list calculations when it wins by more votes than needed. This is another reason why the electoral system in Hungary is even more highly disproportionate in 2014 than it was before.

The reason for having a proportional representation system is to enable representation to be proportional to the vote.   But the Fidesz system makes representation less proportional overall. This innovation puts Hungary out of line with all PR systems in Europe.

The winner compensation system was designed at a time when Fidesz was clearly the plurality party, with all other parties trailing at a distance even though, combined, they would have been more formidable. So Fidesz designed a system in which it would maximally benefit in that fragmented political landscape. If Fidesz won by large margins in the individual districts against a divided opposition, it could have gotten its two-thirds back even with substantially less than half the vote.

The system of winner compensation is therefore another reason why the opposition had to form an alliance, even if only to narrow the gap between the first- and second-largest vote-getter in each individual constituency.

An example shows why. If Fidesz won 500 votes in an individual district and four smaller parties obtained 100 votes each, Fidesz would get 399 votes in winner compensation. But if Fidesz won 500 votes and the Unity Alliance combined the votes of the four smaller parties to gain 400 votes in that district, then Fidesz would only get 99 compensation votes added to its party-list votes. With a unified opposition, the effect of winner compensation is blunted.

So when does winner compensation actually benefit a political party facing a united opposition?

A party would benefit from the winner compensation system if it could encourage a host of new challengers on the “other side” to chip away at the difference between the first- and second-place candidates in each district, throwing additional votes to the winner. And in fact, the new electoral rules make it easier in 2014 than it was in 2010 to field new parties and new candidates, by requiring fewer supporters to endorse them before they can be registered. While we don’t yet know the number of parties that will actually run lists and field candidates, already there are 92 parties that have registered with the National Election Commission. If there are many small “anti-Fidesz” candidates in a particular constituency, for example, they could divide the vote and increase the margin by which Fidesz wins – and therefore increase Fidesz’s likelihood of getting its desired two-thirds majority.

Of course, if the united opposition could sweep the individual constituencies by large margins, then they could also win a disproportionate victory on the party list side as well. But that is why it matters so much that the individual constituencies are drawn in a way to make that maximally unlikely. There are very few safely “left” districts remaining that the united opposition could win by such large margins. So while it is possible in theory for the united opposition to win a disproportionate victory under the rules also, the facts on the ground and the way that the districts have been matched to those facts make it virtually impossible in reality.

But this is not the only “winner compensation” system on view for the 2014 Hungarian election. The fact that Fidesz so decisively won the 2010 election has given it the power to remake and staff the institutions that will run the election this time. In fact, the whole election machinery itself is in the hands of governing party allies for 2014. And we are already seeing worrying signs that these offices are not neutral.

Twice since the 2010 elections, the Election Commission was reorganized and all members of the Election Commission were fired before they completed the ends of their terms. First, the members of the Election Commission elected by the previous parliament were fired when Fidesz passed a law in 2010 that required all Election Commission members to be reelected after each national election, effective immediately (Law LXI of 2010). The old members of the Commission, which included a mix of opposition and Fidesz members with opposition members in the majority, left office immediately and were replaced by a new Commission elected by the Fidesz parliamentary majority which included no members from the political opposition.

Then, in 2013, Fidesz changed the system yet again (Law XXXVI of 2013). This time, the law created a newly structured Election Commission and a newly structured Election Office. The new Election Commission now has seven core members nominated by the President of the Republic (himself a former Fidesz vice-president). They were elected for a term of nine years by a two-thirds vote of the Fidesz-dominated parliament. Not surprisingly, all of the new members of the Commission appear to be allied with the governing party. The Election Office is staffed by civil servants, but the head of the office now is a former deputy state secretary for the Ministry of National Development in the Fidesz government.

While opposition parties report good relations with the new head of the Election Office, one might well still worry about a system in which all of the key players who will make the decisions about the election framework were assigned to their jobs by the governing party, in a system where the governing party just rewrote all of the rules.

Even though the Election Commission has only government-friendly members among its permanent members, once the campaign starts, each party running a national list is able to delegate one person to sit on the Election Commission for the duration of the campaign. These party delegates are able to vote on all matters along with the seven permanent members, which raises the possibility that the permanent members could be outvoted depending on how many and what sorts of groups run national lists. Recently, in a press briefing to the Hungarian International Press Association, András Patyi, the head of the National Election Commission, said that he expected the Election Commission to increase to 20-25 members during the campaign, which means that he anticipates at least a dozen or more national lists. (In 2010, there were 10 lists on the ballot.)

In run-up to the campaign, however, Fidesz allies dominated the Election Commission. The Election Office will remain the key location for information about the election but it gains no members from opposition parties to assist in its operation during the campaign. Already important decisions have been made about how the election will be administered under these new rules. This is why, as we will see in the next blog post, the proliferation of inaccurate and misleading information about the election given out by election officials is especially worrying.

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Although people are inherently self contradictory, this is something else I believe. If people really dislike the government as they say in the polls and really want change then they will vote either for the lefty renamed-to-‘Kormanyvaltas’ coalition or, more likely I am afraid, for Jobbik (perhaps some even for LMP). Otherwise, it will turn out that they do like the government after all. There is no other way. It is not a valid combination to want a change in government and still vote for Fidesz. On the other hand, 40% of people who want the government to stay is more than enough to allow Fidesz to retain its 2/3s power as the 60% percent will be divided among the left and Jobbik and LMP. That is how the system works. Until Fidesz, the government retains a 35-40% popularity the opposition is irrelevant, because it will be divided (from the left to Jobbik) and nobody will individually match Fidesz’ across the board (but especially in rural regions) strength. The problem with the poll is that however flawed it may be (as most people do not even talk to the pollsters), Jobbik steadily gained while the Left did not and that… Read more »
Less Less Less Lies

I can see the decency in all Hungarians occasionally.
The lies are problematic. Innocence leads to lies.
Politicians lead the nation to lies.
Millions lied under Horthy, the same or different millions lied in socialist times, and many fewer, but still too many lie out of bad habits.
Cure the lies and we will have a better Hungary.
Kim Scheppele with the American mind, will have tough time to crack the Hungarian code.

If Fidesz reaches 2/3s, which is currently is the more likely scenario (with 40% of the voters that is easily done by Fidesz), it will also mean that the Left will have no more than 20% in the Parliament and that will be made up of three parties (MSZP, Együtt and DK). This does not bode well for the Left, as all individual parties will thenceforth be ‘small’ parties. And nobody, no voter and no journalist cares about a minuscule party which has 5-8-12% percents in the Parliament. Furthermore, the Left Kormanyvalto coalition will have to stay together because individually no poll will be able to even measure them. Which lefty voter will even talk to a pollster when he/she knows that he/she is in a losing political minority whom nobody will defend if his/her vote is outed in his/her community? As we see from LMP it is pretty difficult to exist when constantly people question their very existence and the first question in every interview is that is it worth it?, because no pollster shows that you could even get into the Parliament? Jobbik, on the other hand, is growing and more and more it will be seen as… Read more »
Zsuzsánna Formanekné Nagy

The largest opposition party, unfortunately, is full of wishy-washy people. When the law was not why did palace revolution, why he did not take to the streets for people to back off the ruling party?(A legnagyobb ellenzéki párt sajnos tutyi-mutyi emberekkel van tele. Amikor a törvényeket hozták miért nem csinált palota forradalmat, miért nem vitte az utcára az embereket, hogy a kormánypárt meghátráljon?)


“the left has generally shown an excessive preoccupation with procedure and allowed itself to be outmaneuvered and outmuscled by the center-right.”

Translate: the left has been a wuss.

Which left is he talking about?

Mr. Paul
“the united opposition which, by the way, wisely changed its name from Összefogás (unity) to “Kormányváltás” (change of government) hasn’t moved an inch. ” I am usually pretty bad at picking up sarcasm, so I am not entirely sure here either. Was it really a wise idea to change the name in the middle of the campaign? The posters will need to be changed all over, taken down, reprinted? A completely new and unkown name to be introduced with less than 1 month to go? “I should add here that there might be close to 40 parties on the ballot, most of them total unknowns. It will be darned difficult even to find the democratic opposition on the list; by lottery it “won” thirty-first place.” Correction: there will be 19 parties on the ballot according to available information. In addition to the 19 parties all the ethnic minorities of Hungary will be represented. The country has 13 officially recognized ethnic minorities whose party lists will appear on the ballot. But these are ethnic minorities, not political parties. So the total number of items (parties+minorities) will be 19+13=32. The total number of parties will be 19. There are other news and… Read more »

Please do not entertain MR.PAUL ‘s comment(s)
He will try to dominate this whole comment section as if this is his own blog!

mklklio: “It is not a valid combination to want a change in government and still vote for Fidesz.” Of course, that is true, but if you read Kim Lane Scheppele closely you will understand that the danger lies in the undecideds or even anti-Fidesz people either not voting at all due to the lacklustre left campaign or even a vote for the opposition not counting due to gerrymandered constituency boundaries and crooked election rules, like compensation for the winner. It is also true that while Fidesz retains 40% support in the electorate it is likely to win. However, the question is how big that win will be in partilaimentary seat terms. Their overwhelming, possibly 2/3rd majority can be achieved with less than half the votes, and that proves how crooked their new electoral law is. Jobbik’s increase is popularity is very much due to what I have always considered the cancer of Hungarian politics. Having lived in England for decades I was used to a reasonably well informed populace who while influenced by the charisma and elan of politicians at times, by and large voted for ideas and ideologies, not politicians. They voted for parties, not how pretty, elegant or… Read more »
Mr. Paul
JGrant : Some years ago my own sister (not stupid or uneducated) voted for a party (I forget which) on this basis. I am not saying she would be stupid enough to vote for Jobbik now, but many others might. She is probably afraid to tell you if she did vote for Jobbik. Just think about it. You openly write sentences such as “I am not saying she would be stupid enough to vote for Jobbik”. If you talk similarly when talking to her, why would she not be scared. On the other hand Jobbik voters are often counted in statistics together with voters of the Socialists and other opposition voters. A typical example of this is talking about the “opposition”, which includes Jobbik, or talking about the people who want “change of government”. This includes people who want a government lead by Gábor Vona, leader of Jobbik. Let’s take an example. “While according to the latest poll every second person would like to see a change of government…” Persons who would like to see a change of government include all Jobbik voters. In fact this statistic is simply created by adding the Jobbik voters (18%) to the Left Wing… Read more »
Deckname "Matchek"


Jobbik’s increase has to do with protest, it is a classic protest party.

Economically leftist and socially conservative, perfect combination for economically problematic times. And it has been active in grass-roots organisation.

There is no need for big philosophies to figure out what is behind it.

At the same time, people are tired by ‘smart’ issues. They want quick relief and they want it now. Like utility price cuts or pay rises. They emphatically do not care about rule of law, good governance and suchlike. They are bored by them, they would have to think even to get half of it, that is tiresome.They hear any of this haughty idea and they go back to watching their favorite reality show immediately.

Yes, please ignore our agent provocateur Mr. Paul, he is a paid troll working for state security.


Putin hasn’t been so popular for years. 66% of the people approve. Why wouldn’t he conquer all there is in the former Sovietunion?

Mr. Paul

Thank you, Deckname for presenting such a clear example of a logical fallacy. The Nizkor project, a website dedicated to fighting ignorance and hatred, has a very good definition for exactly this type of logical fallacy that you were using:

“An Ad Hominem is a general category of fallacies in which a claim or argument is rejected on the basis of some irrelevant fact about the author of or the person presenting the claim or argument. Typically, this fallacy involves two steps. First, an attack against the character of person making the claim, her circumstances, or her actions is made (or the character, circumstances, or actions of the person reporting the claim). Second, this attack is taken to be evidence against the claim or argument the person in question is making (or presenting). This type of “argument” has the following form:

Person A makes claim X.
Person B makes an attack on person A.
Therefore A’s claim is false.”


I would recommend for you to read more of the website too if you have the time. It is very informative.


It’s funny with Mr. Paul. We know from Gerd Wiesler played by the late Ulrich Mühe that if someone innocent is accused with a crime which he did not commit, the accused will be outraged and would want to insist on his innocence. This is apparently a natural reaction to the perceived injustice. And I think this is a true observation. Interestingly, Mr. Paul has been called an agent and whatnot a few times, but he never addressed the question. He remained silent and cool. This continued and calculated ignorance gives Mr. Paul’s profession away, however. I am sure I would be unhappy if someone called me a III/II guy or whatever directorate he used to work with. Not him. He is used to that existence, so he does not think there is anything special in that. See, that’s his job, so what’s the big fuss about it? Which may or may not be a relevant question, but I sure don’t see a big demand for him at this site. It takes a special kind of personality to return to somewhere where somebody is patently disliked.


@Eva, re Mr. Paul

I think the best way to gage Mr. Paul’s true intent here is to limit him to one (15 lines or less) comment per topic. We’ll soon see if that limited exposure satisfies his ‘professional’ requirements or not.


Many here have decried the hapless, inadequate, efforts of the left.
Lest we forget, the ‘et-tu’ types who fixed Gyurcsany are still in MSZP; and would, I daresay, think themselves far better off with the 20% (or whatever) from the gross malfeasance of Fidesz than the slim pickings of a reformist party. What’s more, to maintain their standing, these ‘moles’ must do their work in dragging their feet from the vehicle of the opposition.

My suspicions arise from the hapless efforts of the opposition that I’ve witnessed so far:
where the loud voices and front page ads that “we won’t be the next Ukraine!!”? Where are
the signs and loud voices that say: “Fidesz not only steals, blackmails, but kills”? (regarding
the person who died one day after he was forced to sell off his lucrative software firm).
These are only the latest, great, election topics that go begging for exposure…


OT: state of Hungarian ‘independent’ media.

about a “Girls’ Night Out” by Rasi Orbán and her mother (wife of Viktor).

The article appeared at origo.hu’s dedicated women’s section, life.hu.

For those who do not speak Hungarian, the style is without exaggeration reminiscent of North-Korean state tv. The journalist is stunningly sucking up to the Orban’s family. And this is at the supposedly independent origo.hu, Hungary’s most visited internet site (index.hu is second).



enuff :
Please do not entertain MR.PAUL ‘s comment(s)
He will try to dominate this whole comment section as if this is his own blog!

It gives us something to talk about, though. Otherwise it’s just the same old optimism against all the odds, or pessimistic doom and gloom – none of which will make the slightest difference to anything.

‘Mr Paul’, daft and obvious as he is, is at least some light relief.

For instance, I love it when ‘he’ says things like “according to available information” – as if he’s researched this, and not just been told it by his handler!

What else is there to smile about at the moment?


petofi :
@Eva, re Mr. Paul
I think the best way to gage Mr. Paul’s true intent here is to limit him to one (15 lines or less) comment per topic. We’ll soon see if that limited exposure satisfies his ‘professional’ requirements or not.

This could be one of the sanest things Petofi’s ever written!

I don’t know how you’d do it, but it would be a fascinating experiment.

Mr. Paul

Index.hu reports that left-wing press conferences are cancelled one after other: as full-on panic mode sets in because of the newest opposition scandal.

Janos Zuschlag the former high ranking MSZP politician wrote a book about his life and time within the ranks in MSZP. The book to be released next monday is already causing a storm, as its details are appearing in the press one by one.


I remember being called a Fidesz troll, possibly on this forum (but I think it was another) because I stated that I was told years ago by someone with good MSZP connections that Zuschlag was given a 50 million forint pay-off by the MSZP to give up his seat after his tasteless remarks about the Holocaust. And lo and behold, Zuschlag has confirmed it (or perhaps he is also a Fidesz troll!) My contact didn’t know (or wouldn’t say) quite what Zuschlag knew that gave him such bargaining power. But I’m feeling rather smug this morning!

I don’t believe for two seconds that Mr Paul has handlers or has been sent by Fidesz to disrupt the forum. What would be the point? The blogs are good but the comments are hardly influential or significant. No, he’s frequently tiresome but he is hardly any worse than Tappanch in that respect, but his biggest crime is that he swims against the sycophantic tide. Ignore him which is what I usually do.


Eva, your problem is that you don’t seem to understand just how indiscreet all this sort of thing is in Hungary. That is not your fault because you live in Yale. But I heard about this (and i’m not making this up although I don’t suppose you will believe me) back in 2004 and I was told 50 million. Perhaps coincidence of course. Or perhaps I’m a Fidesz troll


Good posts by mklklio and laci.

“I don’t believe for two seconds that Mr Paul has handlers or has been sent by Fidesz to disrupt the forum. What would be the point?” Surely, that’s exactly the point? The more time ‘we’ spend arguing with trolls, the less effective we are. I’m not claiming we are particularly effective, of course, but we are pretty much all the Hungarian opposition has got. And historically, it’s places like this (the modern-day equivalent of the coffee house or the számisdát) that have been the seed-beds for future effective opposition movements. So, irrelevant as we may seem, it’s still worth Fidesz taking the trouble to disrupt us. And if you doubt that ‘Mr Paul’ is a troll, just read his posts. They are littered with clues (the use of the word ‘lies’ entirely out of context, for instance – trademark Fidesz, or the strange way he seems to be so well ‘informed’, or his desperate attempts to argue minute detail and pedantry). Compare his posts with any other regular poster and the difference stands out a mile – none of us post in his ‘scattergun’ style, or at his length, and none of us are as bothered as him about being… Read more »

“green: citizens eligible to vote”

No. Green is those having a clear party preference. That is why there is no green bar next to the heading, “no party [preference].”



What does this mean?

“But I heard about this (and i’m not making this up although I don’t suppose you will believe me) back in 2004 and I was told 50 million.”

Obviously something is missing here.

But anyway, HiBoM, what’s your grief? Have you been drinking too much of that god-awful Unicum? Some of your latest is ghastly: pairing our magnificently informative Trappanch
with the long-tail mole “Mr. Paul”. Pleeeaaze.

And, ‘sycophantic tide’? What’s this? Because some people compliment Eva on her work?

You’ve got to get off the juice, boy; or ease up in the libamaj because the cholesterol is clogging up the veins to your brain.


Eva S. Balogh :
It could be done but it would require me to watch the flow of comments every minute of the day. Let one go and then throw out the rest

Try it.