Another election trick: Bogus parties; Kim Scheppele’s “Hungary, An Election in Question, Part 5″

Although the Hungarian media is absolutely full of the story of a forthcoming book written by János Zuschlag, a former MSZP member of parliament who spent six years in jail for embezzling about 50 million forints while he was undersecretary in the short-lived Ministry of Sports. He alleges that MSZP paid him 50 million forints to refrain from entering the 2006 parliamentary election as a candidate. I am not wasting time on the Zuschlag allegation because I consider it a bogus issue being used by Fidesz as yet another weapon against the opposition, strategically released a month before the election.

Instead, I would rather call attention to another election trick introduced by Viktor Orbán’s team that will make the democratic opposition’s chances on April 6 even slimmer. They decided to change the rules for getting on the ballot. According to the old rules, each voter received a piece of paper which he could hand to a canvasser from the party of his choice. The number of endorsements each candidate had to collect was pretty high, and therefore it was difficult for bogus parties to enter the race. But as a result of the changed rules voters now can endorse several parties, and the candidates need only 500 signatures. In addition, Fidesz decided to be generous with public money. They allocated 6 billion forints to distribute among all parties, including these new no-name parties and candidates. As things stand now, there are so many new parties that the 6 billion forints most likely will not be enough. It may cost the budget 10.5 billion forints to pay off those who are ready for this ugly game.

Originally, Fidesz claimed that eliminating the second round of elections would save a great deal of money. As it is turning out, with these generous subsidies the cost of the election will be exactly the same as if there had been two rounds of elections. I should also mention that although the European parliamentary election could have been held together with the national one this year, the combined election was torpedoed by Fidesz because they calculated that its results would be unfavorable to them.

The total subsidy to each party will depend on the number of districts in which their candidates run. Those parties which manage to have at least 27 candidates in Budapest as well as candidates in 9 counties will be able to have a nationwide list. The well known, established parties naturally had no difficulty gathering the necessary 500 signatures in all 106 individual districts. They are Fidesz-KDNP (Viktor Orbán), Jobbik (Gábor Vona), LMP (András Schiffer), MSZP-Együtt-PM-DK-MLP (Attila Mesterházy), and Munkáspárt (the communist party headed by Gyula Thürmer). They were joined by a new party I had never heard of called A Haza nem Eladó Mozgalom Párt (The Homeland is Not for Sale, Árpád Kásler). Given the name, I assume that it is a far-right opposition party.

Yesterday twelve new parties were registered: Sportos és Egészséges Magyarországért Párt (Party for Fit and Healthy Hungary, Patrícia Pásztori ), Szociáldemokraták Magyarországi Polgári Pártja (Bourgeois Party of Social Democrats of Hungary, Andor Ákos Schmuck), Független Kisgazda-, Földmunkás és Polgári Párt (Party of Independent Smallholders, Farmworkers and the Middle Class, Péter Hegedüs), az Együtt 2014 Párt (Party of Together 2014, György Tiner), Új Magyarország Párt (New Hungary Party, Péter Táncsics), Közösség a Társadalmi Igazságosságért Néppárt (Community of Social Justice, Katalin Szili), Magyarországi Cigánypárt (Gypsy Party of Hungary, Aladár Horváth), Zöldek Pártja (Party of the Greens, László Ács) , Új Dimenzió Párt (New Dimension Party, Szabolcs Kovács), a Jólét és Szabadság Demokrata Közösség (Democratic Community for Welfare and Freedom, Zsolt Makay), Összefogás Párt (Party of Unity, Zsolt László Szepessy), and Seres Mária Szövetségesei (Associates of Mária Seres). Now you understand why the name change from Összefogás (Unity Alliance) to Kormányváltás (Change of Government) was necessary. Of course, there’s still the potential confusion between az Együtt 2014 Párt and Bajnai’s party that belongs to Kormányváltás.

Originally the National Election Commission registered 80 parties and 2,600 individual candidates. Total chaos reigned at the Commission. The first list they released still had 31 parties, which then was reduced to 18. The word is that this may not be the final version. This is what the ballot would have looked like with 31 parties in their allotted places on the list:

partlistaEarly enough it became clear that at least 1,000 of the individual candidates couldn’t get 500 signatures. But still there remained more than 1,500. However, 300 of the 1,000 appealed the decision and their cases are pending.

Among the smaller parties there were several who did surprisingly well–for example, the Social Democrats of Andor Schmuck and Democratic Community for Welfare and Freedom of Zsolt Makay, a party that is a revived segment of the old MDF. They will receive 400-450 million forints. Even Aladár Horváth’s Gypsy Party will get about 300 million forints. I might add here that individual candidates will each receive 1 million forints, and these people will have to account for every penny they spend. The parties themselves have a great deal of freedom and can easily cheat.

So, we are talking about more than 1,500 candidates representing 18 parties. That means they had to collect 750,000 signatures altogether. Admittedly, a single voter can sign several endorsement lists, but still this is a very high number especially when better known small parties couldn’t manage to get the necessary number of signatures. Suspicion lingers that some of these bogus parties got their signatures illegally, by swapping data bases. If Party X had a lot of signatures in Baranya but few in Csongrád, they swapped names with Party Y which was strong in Csongrád but weak in Baranya.

Fidesz politicians refuse to admit that their generosity toward smaller parties served the purpose of confusing voters and weakening the opposition. They proudly point to the democratic nature of the procedure. But the fact that the threshold of parliamentary representation was not lowered from the existing 5% reveals Fidesz’s real goal. They didn’t want to give small parties a chance to share power with them in parliament. They simply wanted to use them.

The parties’ place on the ballot was decided by lottery. Here is the (perhaps) final list: 1. Magyarországi Cigány Párt, 2. A Haza Nem Eladó Mozgalom Párt, 3. Seres Mária Szövetségesei, 4. Független Kisgazdapárt, 5. Új Dimenzió Párt, 6. Fidesz–KDNP, 7. Sportos és Egészséges Magyarországért Párt, 8. Lehet Más a Politika, 9. Jólét és Szabadság Demokrata Közösség, 10. Új Magyarország Párt, 11. Munkáspárt, 12. Szociáldemokraták Magyar Polgári Pártja, 13. Közösség a Társadalmi Igazságosságért Néppárt, 14. Együtt 2014 Párt, 15. Zöldek, 16. Összefogás Párt, 17. MSZP–Együtt–PM–DK–Liberálisok, 18. Jobbik.

The National Election Committee already announced that it will be necessary to have more voting booths and that there might be long lines because of the slowness of the procedure. It is also likely that the final results will not be released as promptly as in the past.

Good luck, Hungarian voters!

* * *

Hungary: An Election in Question

Part V: The Unequal Campaign

Kim Lane Scheppele, Princeton University

 Officially, the election campaign in Hungary starts 50 days before an election, so the race began in earnest on 15 February for the 6 April election. Once the campaign period starts in Hungary, special rules ensure that all parties are treated equally.

 But as Anatole France once said, “In its majestic equality, the law forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, beg in the streets, and steal loaves of bread.”

We’ve already seen how the new system in Hungary was designed to push opposition parties into an uncomfortable alliance and to require they win by a substantial margin to win at all. And we’ve seen how the system of minority and foreign voting has opened the doors for Fidesz voters while closing them to those who would vote for opposition parties.

Not surprisingly, the rules for the campaign period itself also have a similar logic.

A free and fair election requires that all contesting parties have equal access to the media to get their message out. The new Law on Election Procedure, which regulates media access during the campaign period, formally complies with formal equality. For the first time since the first post-communist election, the parties running national lists will receive equal numbers of free minutes on public television to make their case to the public. This is a victory for equality and transparency.

But a closer look at the small print reveals that it is a trap. The law allocates only 600 minutes total for all parties with national lists (including the “nationality” lists) and it requires that these minutes be equally divided. If, as the head of the National Election Commission predicted in his 29 January press conference with the Hungarian Foreign Press Association, there are 10 or 12 national lists contesting in the April election, each party would be entitled to 50-60 minutes to be used over 50 days. One minute per day on television is not much – especially when those minutes appear on the public television station, which is the least watched major television station in the country.

In addition, what the law gave with one hand it took away with the other. The election law originally gave free minutes on public television while simultaneously banning paid advertising on commercial television, a move which the not-yet-packed Constitutional Court struck down in December 2012 as a violation of free speech rights. The government then added this provision directly to the Constitution in April 2013 through the infamous Fourth Amendment. The European Commission found this provision contrary to European law and threatened a legal action over it. Eventually, the Hungarian government backed down and modified the commercial broadcast ban in the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution passed in September 2013, permitting all parties to advertise in the commercial broadcast media during the election campaign.

But here, too, there was a catch: parties are only allowed to run campaign ads on commercial television if the commercial broadcasters donate the time and give this free time to all national lists equally. It is hard to imagine a for-profit television station giving free advertising time to all parties equally, especially when there are likely to be 10-12 lists. So it was not surprising that all of the commercial channels, the most watched channels in Hungary, have already said that they will not run campaign ads in this election cycle. In fact, there will be no prime ministerial debates either.

So the EU pressure and resulting constitutional amendment designed to open up the commercial media to campaign advertising have produced absolutely nothing. The only campaign ads on television during the campaign this year will be on the public broadcaster alone.

So how else can the parties and candidates get their message out?

Parties are allowed by the campaign law to advertise without limit on billboards. But, as it turns out, most of the display advertising space in the country is owned by companies in the possession of the circle of oligarchs close to Fidesz (Mahir, Publimont and EuroCity). If the opposition parties buy billboard space, the proceeds go straight into the pocket of the Fidesz family of companies.

As it turns out, however, having the opposition enrich the governing party through the purchase of billboard space was the least of the problems with the monopoly on billboards. One of the leaders of the Unity Alliance told me on a recent trip to Budapest that all of the billboards in the country are sold out for the duration of the campaign and not available for purchase. But one can see already that Fidesz-friendly billboards are everywhere. As I write, Budapest streets, streetcars, metro stations and other public spaces are flooded with Fidesz-friendly ads, using the spaces owned by the Fidesz-friendly companies.

What about newspapers? Fidesz has a large group of party-friendly newspapers, owned by their oligarch allies. By contrast, the Unity Alliance has a smaller group of much-poorer newspapers that are sympathetic to them. So far, no advertisements from the allied opposition have appeared in the Fidesz-friendly media which don’t need the money while advertisements for Fidesz have already appeared in the opposition papers which cannot afford to turn down paying ads.

So the media landscape is severely tilted against the Unity Alliance, which now needs to get a new message out to let people know what this new joint party is all about.

If most of the regular broadcast and print media are not open to the democratic opposition, however, surely, of course, the parties can plaster the light posts, bus stops, trees, walls and other public surfaces with posters and handbills, right? Actually, not.

A law from 2011 that received virtually no attention at the time it was passed bans commercial advertisements and political messages from major thoroughfares around the country. It is billed as a safety measure, designed to keep drivers’ eyes on the road. Suddenly the law came into public view, however, when a late-Friday-afternoon prime ministerial decree on 17 January 2014 added campaign posters to the list of advertisements already banned by this prior law. Now no campaign ads can be placed within 50 meters of a major road or 100 meters of a highway, joining the prior ban on other kinds of posters.

A Budapest ordinance adds to the spaces from which political posters are banned. Acting in the name of environmentalism and heritage preservation, the Fidesz-dominated Budapest City Council has prohibited political posters from going up on bridges, on metro station walls, in street underpasses, on statues and memorials – and on trees. A 26-page addendum to the law adds many specific places where posters may not be placed, and the list includes almost every major square and public meeting point in the city.

Of course, incumbent parties can find many ways to keep themselves in the public eye, so restrictions on the media disproportionately tend to affect challengers. So how is the opposition supposed to get its message out for this campaign given that all of the traditional avenues are blocked?

Well, there’s the internet. But anyone who has read the comments sections of Hungarian newspapers, blogs or other public spaces on the internet (even the Krugman blog!) knows how quickly government-supporting trolls try to occupy and dominate the space. And while internet-based media like Facebook are good at reaching the young and the educated, it is still not a universal medium.

What about mailing campaign literature to supporters and reaching them by phone? A recent announcement from the head of the data protection office (the office whose independence is being questioned in an infringement action before the European Court of Justice seems to limit even this sort of access to voters by parties.

According to Attila Péterfalvi, the government’s data protection official, political parties must notify him when they intend to keep lists of their supporters. (EU law, by the way, does not require the regulation of such lists, but confines its scope to lists kept by the government.) Péterfalvi told the parties that they may not use for campaign purposes lists of addresses in the phone book, nor may they call people who have not explicitly indicated that they welcome campaign calls. The Election Office added to this privacy protection by sending all voters a letter that explains how to opt out of receiving campaign materials. So access to voters through these traditional means has been limited in the name of data privacy.

Perhaps the opposition can hold campaign rallies and stage personal appearances by the candidates to reach voters? But already a friend in Debrecen tells me that the Unity Alliance has had a hard time finding a place to hold a rally there because all of the spaces large enough for such a gathering are controlled by the Fidesz allies. They have either forbidden all political rallies or charge so much for the use of the space that the opposition parties cannot afford it.

Which brings us to campaign finance reform as another aspect of the campaign regulation in which rich and poor alike are banned from sleeping under bridges.

The new campaign finance law attempts to regulate campaign spending by publicly funding campaigns. Before the Fidesz reforms, campaign finance was completely non-transparent and had few enforceable rules.  It was listed as one of the policy areas most deserving of reform by Transparency International, so change is a good thing.

On the surface, the campaign finance picture looks much better. All of the parties running national party lists get equal amounts of public money (between € ­475,000 and € 2 million, depending on the number of candidates fielded) and each candidate gets a fixed amount of money in addition (about € 3400). This will provide transparent funding for all parties equally, something very much needed.

Political parties can still accept private money, though, up to a defined limit. But of course there is a catch.   Now, suddenly, no campaign may accept private money from a foreigner (understandable). But, in addition, no party may accept money from a “legal person” – meaning any company, NGO, foundation or trust. After the US Supreme Court decision in Citizens United, permitting corporations to give unlimited cash to American campaigns, the ban on corporate donations in Hungary may seem a great idea to Americans. But context is everything. Fidesz is funded by a set of oligarchs tied to the party who can give virtually unlimited amounts as individuals. The Unity Alliance, by contrast, has been funded by party-allied foundations, which now cannot contribute to the campaign. The campaign finance regulations are, like Anatole France’s aphorism, designed to equally prohibit what the rich don’t need and the poor can’t do without.

But there is clearly an election coming because, on the streets of Budapest, there are huge billboards and posters everywhere attacking the Unity Alliance.

Nem erdemelnek2Civil Unity Forum (CÖF) Election Poster, seen everywhere in Budapest
CÖF is a civil society group aligned with Fidesz, unregulated by the election laws.

These ads (see above) show the three of the leaders of the Unity Alliance (Mesterházy, Bajnai and Gyurcsány) with a Socialist former deputy major of Budapest (Miklós Hagyó) who is currently facing trial for corruption. Hagyó is not running for any office in this election, so he is there on the posters to convey guilt by association. The message, which blares “They don’t deserve another chance” shows all of the men holding placards of the sort featured in police mug shots. And seen also in the photo is the clown, who has been making appearances at events of these candidates, following them around to make fun of them. These sorts of messages are unregulated by the campaign finance rules – or in fact by any campaign rules at all.

Why not? They’re not sponsored by Fidesz but instead by the CÖF (which stands for Civil Összefogás Fórum or the Civil Unity Forum). As it turns out, civil society organizations can advertise without being limited by either the campaign media rules or the campaign finance rules. As a result, CÖF has plastered the city with election ads on billboards owned by Fidesz-friendly billboard companies, and none of these ads count toward Fidesz’s money or media allocations under the election law.

Of course the united opposition could do this also, if it had the wealthy backers. But virtually all of the wealth in Hungary stands behind Fidesz.  And even if there were rich backers of the united opposition, they would still have to buy the billboard space from Fidesz-friendly companies, billboard space that is now conveniently all sold out.

 * * *

The Orbán government vociferously insists that it is still a democracy. But in its four years in power, the Orbán government has been preparing for the moment when it actually has to get through an election in order to still be able to make that claim. Not surprisingly, this government of lawyers has created a complex legal framework in which the rules may appear to be neutral, but they don’t have neutral effects.

Fidesz has designed a system that allows it to face an apparently contested election without the real possibility of losing. With this election, then, Hungary has mastered the art of appearing to be something it is not – a true democracy holding free and fair elections.

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LwiiH
Guest

I’m not sure what the definition of a major throughway is here but there are now posters around lamppost lining a number of streets including Szilágyi Erzsébet Fasor all the way to Moszkva tér. This pretty much the only (reasonable) road to get from the north west end of Budapest to the city center. The lamp posts are surrounded on 4 sides by a small wooden fence just large enough to hold a poster. My estimate is that 6-7 out of every 8 slots along Szilágyi Erzsébet Faso are owned by Varga (all the ones I saw where sponsored by COF). Jobbik has grabbed all the other slots ‘cept 1 for Unity.This is by no means an exact count as I was driving and had to keep my eye on traffic. For sure Varga gets top billing as it’s difficult if not impossible to see the others while driving.

Paul
Guest

A little OT:

Generally, I think voters are brighter than we give them credit for, and can work out even a complicated ballot.

But there are always a few idiots. In the UK, ballot papers are alphabetical on candidate’s surname. I once stood in a local election as a ‘paper candidate’ (i.e. just so the party was represented in a ward we had no hope of winning), and got the best result that we had ever had in that ward – purely because my name came first!

We also have a very open party registration system, you can almost register any name you like (nothing rude or libellous, but more or less anything else goes). The result is that, particularly at by-elections, there are always a few silly parties on ballots – like the Let’s Have a Party, the Birthday Party, etc. And bizarrely they always get some votes!

I’ve always thought this was a good thing, as it livens things up, and reminds us not to take things too seriously. But perhaps I’m being a little too ‘British’…

Paul
Guest

And a PS – until fairly recently, ballot papers did not show the candidate’s party! Can you imagine how confusing that was?!

In one of our local elections, the Labour party, which always won just 6 seats in the large council estate, but never anywhere else, won a surprise 7th seat and even more surprising, it was a rural ward. The local candidate just happened to have the same name as the local, and well-known, (Tory) MP!

petofi
Guest

“…Hungary has mastered the art of appearing…”

Precisely: “appearing”.

Hungary leads the world in ‘szellhamossag’. I asked my wife if there was a translation for that but there doesn’t seem to be a word for it in English.

A classic example: the election is stacked with non-existent parties and candidates who are unserious at best. Yet, the government will flood these parties and people with bags of money. Why? It’s not the democratic spirit, that’s for sure. In fact, the ridiculousness of the setup will garner mock results and it will be easy for the government to follow this up with the contention that ‘democracy’ does not work in Hungary; and what’s more, it is too expensive(!)’
Result: best to forget elections altogether and save the money; and let the leader, er, the king, chose the ‘parliamentarians’….

Or some such scenario. I can see the basis of harpooning democracy and voting being prepared now.

An
Guest

I think Professor Scheppelle’s analysis is invaluable in understanding how the elections are manipulated by Fidesz abusing its legislative power. The question is, what to do about it?

It’s a catch 22… if the opposition accepts the rules, they are bound to lose, and they also give legitimacy to this fake election process and to the second term of Fidesz government. In the unlikely event the opposition wins, the new government will be paralyzed by Fidesz’s legislation and its strongmen in key positions.

Some voices call for a boycott: it would send a strong message about the state of (or rather, lack of) democracy in Hungary. It would also question the legitimacy of the regime, and would make it easier to reverse the country’s laws back to pre-2010. However, it would give Fidesz an easier victory, and the opposition would have to give up even the faint hope of taking on Fidesz in the elections.

Christopher Adam
Guest
Just a small correction and an additional detail: Gyula Thürmer’s Munkáspárt, which has been around for the past 24 years and has a real program (it’s not my cup of tea, but it is a comprehensive program), a party newspaper, activists and a history, had great difficulty collecting the required 500 signatures in at least 27 ridings. When I spoke with Thürmer via telephone less than a week before the deadline for collecting these signatures, he was not certain that his party would make it. In the end, his party managed to field candidates in only 33 out of 106 ridings. In stark contrast, the Új Dimenzió Párt – which has virtually nothing on its website and whose political program is comprised of nothing else than a vague promise to ensure that all Hungarians have access to cheap wireless internet – managed to field candidates in 49 ridings. This means that UDP – with no name recognition, no activists and no program – somehow managed to gather at least 24,500 signatures in two weeks, which translates to 1750 signatures each day, while an established party like the Munkáspárt, with a widely recognized leader, just barely mustered the strength to run.… Read more »
Vilmos
Guest
This is simple fraud. The below 444.hu article tells it in Hungarian how it was done. The data and signatures were simply forged. The fraudster parties got together and exchanged the already existing real signatures (many of which were purchased for money) between them so that the other parties could copy (ie. forge) the signatures onto their own signature sheet. This could be done because (a) pursuant to the current regulations any person is entitled to recommend any number of parties (i.e. sign for more than one parties) and (b) pursuant to law no authority can investigate whether somebody really recommended more than party (and if so which ones). So all the fraudster parties had to do was to forge signatures of people who already recommended at least one party (probably just to be on the safe side these parties did not want to make up completely bogus signatures). There is no legal jurisdiction much less willingness or capacity to check out which signatures were real and which ones forged. But the system was constructed exactly this way. Everything went according to plans. There was a huge financial incentive and laws allowed it. This was just one part of Fidesz’… Read more »
Marcel Dé (@MarcelD10)
Guest

@Vilmos: “pursuant to the current regulations any person is entitled to recommend any number of parties”.

Seriously?!?

Ht
Guest

Marcel: yes.

Obviously, a party was collecting for itself, but before the deadline when it became obvious that there just aren’t enough signatures these pseudo-parties realized that cooperation was useful so they started to swap the signatures for forgery.

The right for multiple recommendations does not mean that a person was actually recommending many parties, although it may have happened. But that is irrelevant anyway.

It simply means that multiple signatures (recommendations) are normal and therefore cannot give rise to any legal suspicions.

Not that any authority could investigate such signatures: that would mean the investigation of a so-called sensitive personal data and ultimately establishing someone’s political views and of course there is no capacity to get signatures ‘authenticated’ by experts. In many cases the recommendations were bought from gipsies and other uneducated, poor people who would not even remember whom they talked to.

This has been carefully constructed by Fidesz. Many (if not most) of the pseudo-parties have been encouraged by Fideszniks. It’s a great business and a huge distraction on the ballot.

Tojas
Guest

sorry, very OT: but it would be indeed great to hear that Rasi Orban is pregnant, some people think it could be announced around April 2-3. They said this of course as joke, but you never know with the Orban family (see other snarky comments about the lawyer-professional soccer player Orban son and his family at 444.hu).

Peter
Guest

One of these fake parties almost got my endorsement last week. A hired student worker rang my doorbell, saying that he was collecting endorsements for “Egyutt 2014 (Together 2014) Party”. I asked whether this is the party which is running jointly with other parties, to which he answered yes.

Only after I gave my personal data did I check the signature sheet, then I recognised that this was not Bajnai’s “Egyutt”. I refused to sign and I asked the fellow to cross out my data from his sheet (lest someone just forged the missing signature). He did so, saying he did not understand what the problem was

Peter
Guest

Post scriptum: I am still uneasy where my personal data might end up.

spectator.
Guest
An : I think Professor Scheppelle’s analysis is invaluable in understanding how the elections are manipulated by Fidesz abusing its legislative power. The question is, what to do about it? It’s a catch 22… if the opposition accepts the rules, they are bound to lose, and they also give legitimacy to this fake election process and to the second term of Fidesz government. In the unlikely event the opposition wins, the new government will be paralyzed by Fidesz’s legislation and its strongmen in key positions. Some voices call for a boycott: it would send a strong message about the state of (or rather, lack of) democracy in Hungary. It would also question the legitimacy of the regime, and would make it easier to reverse the country’s laws back to pre-2010. However, it would give Fidesz an easier victory, and the opposition would have to give up even the faint hope of taking on Fidesz in the elections. Yuo’re right of course, but it rather too late for a boycott to be treated as anything but an admission of veakness. It should have happened on the same day when this shameful electoral law traded power. Actually there were voices, particularly from… Read more »
Marcel Dé (@MarcelD10)
Guest

Ht :Not that any authority could investigate such signatures: that would mean the investigation of a so-called sensitive personal data and ultimately establishing someone’s political views and of course there is no capacity to get signatures ‘authenticated’ by experts.

Seriously, again?!?

I don’t doubt what Eva S. Balogh & yourselves wrote, but I’m puzzled to say the least. Any eligibility criterion has to be opposable. The Hungarian dispositions seem based on those of Poland, but in Poland – where the number of required signatures is much higher btw – one can appeal by the courts. The sealed records can be opened (in presence of the Electoral Commission of course) during the proceedings.

Marcel Dé (@MarcelD10)
Guest

Eva S. Balogh :

Marcel Dé (@MarcelD10) :@Vilmos: “pursuant to the current regulations any person is entitled to recommend any number of parties”.Seriously?!?

Serously but I think I mentioned that in the post.

Indeed, I realized only afterwards. What strikes me is the combination of a very low number of signatures (especially for for nation-wide lists) and the ability for one voter to nominate several lists. Notwithstanding the thing has a je ne sais quoi of classic Fidesz style (hey guys, let’s just take the worst individual parts of every system in the EU), this is just begging for fraud to happen.

And of course, if you can’t take things to a court, either for your list or that of your competitor – I still cannot believe this one – then it is a parody.

Moll
Guest

Peter: The poor kid just wanted to make some money. The younger generation just don’t care about the politics. It is uncool so they don’t care about it. I am not even sure if he knew or got it that this was not Bajnai’s party but rather he was participating in Fidesz’ trick to get this pseudo-party on the ballot (hoping that the similar sounding name will confuse many people). But even if je knew, the kid just did not understand what the big deal was, as he could have made say HUF 2,500 (about 10 bucks) and – as far as he was concerned – you would not have lost anything, after all elections don’t matter, he hates politicians, and anyway Orban will remain.

Moll
Guest

Peter: The poor kid just wanted to make some money. The younger generation just don’t care about the politics. It is uncool so they don’t care about it. I am not even sure if he knew or got it that this was not Bajnai’s party but rather he was participating in Fidesz’ trick to get this pseudo-party on the ballot (hoping that the similar sounding name will confuse many people). But even if je knew, the kid just did not understand what the big deal was, as he could have made say HUF 2,500 (10 bucks) and – as far as he was concerned – you would not have lost anything, after all elections don’t matter, he hates politicians, and anyway Orban will remain.

Member

HUNGARY’S “ELECTIONS”: A SHAMELESS, SHAMEFUL FRAUD

What is happening in this Balkan Backwater, unopposed, is outrageous — but that it’s happening, with impunity, within the EU, is almost beyond belief…

Yes, a boycott, and a concerted appeal to the EU Court seems the only option now. Anything else is just another seal of approval on the death knell of democracy in this failing state.

(“Sign of weakness”? Sign to whom? And so what? Giving this cynical farce even the faintest hint of legitimacy at this point is not a sign of weakness but of delusion.)

HiBoM
Guest

I think it is far too late to talk about boycotting now. Had large numbers of people come onto the streets the day it was passed and set up barricades and generally made a conspicuous nuisance of themselves, then I think it would have been possible to declare a boycott because it would seem there was a mandate to do so. But they didn’t. If the opposition were to boycott it now, it would seem like sour grapes in the face of certain obliteration at the poles.
All we can hope for now is that opposition does at least a substantial number of votes, even if the electoral arithmetic award them an unfair number of seats. That at least will give an indication how many thinking people there are in Hungary. But make no mistake, if the opposition do miserably in numerical terms, that is not because the polls were rigged. It is because no one cares.

Pommes
Guest
This underscores yet again that the majority of the voters just don’t get sophisticated arguments. And by sophisticated I mean any argument that is obvious to a well-educated 12-year old. Forget rule of law and the EU, people need basic political messages which a bright 6-12 year old can understand. Is the Left good at this? Because if the answer is no, then forget about it. 30% are functionally illiterate and another 40% can slowly and with substantial effort read and write but in reality they never read a book, travel abroad, contemplate complex issues beyond the very basics of existence, like will I pay the electricity bill on time or should I shop at Lidl or Aldi? I just don’t understand why the Left does not get this. It’s like lefties never read an intro to politics? Where do these lefties live? What do they want to achieve? Eva S. Balogh : Yesterday I heard on ATV that their reporters went around and asked people, young and old, about Ukraine. Precisely, they inquired about where Ukraine is. Can you imagine? No one could even give an approximate answer. Think about it. Ukraine is a neighbor and there are about… Read more »
Istvan
Guest

Well I guess Eva many Hungarians have similar geographic skills to what we often see here in the USA. But I would argue that the vast majority of US citizens do known where Mexico and Canada are relative to where they live in the states. But as to even general knowledge about world events, forget about it. A significant portion of even our younger college educated population do not follow world events or watch general news programs. They work 12 hours a day go home play games, watch popular media, sports, text each other about sexual/social adventures, worry about their student loan debt, and go to bars.

Really only US college graduates that majored in political science, or history have much understanding of world affairs. This is true about 2nd and 3rd generation Hungarian Americans too, some of whom have been back to Hungary several times. When Orban last visited Chicago during a NATO summit held here I heard a few of the younger people talking about how sophisticated he seemed in his dress and manners, that it really made one proud to be of Hungarian ancestry to see that Hungary had a prime minister like him.

Member

CONTINUOUS CORRUPTION IN ORBAN’S CARPATHIAN BASEMENT

HiBoM :
I think it is far too late to talk about boycotting now. Had large numbers of people come onto the streets the day it was passed and set up barricades and generally made a conspicuous nuisance of themselves, then I think it would have been possible to declare a boycott…

The day what was passed? and what day was that? It seems to me that the last four Orban-years have been a continuous and relentless erosion of democracy and justice in Hungary, by subterfuge as well as by an unending series of laws and constitutional amendments passed without challenge because of the Fidesz parliamentary supermajority as well as the population apathy (mixed with collusion). The election rigging was already being hoisted almost from day one, with the district gerrymandering, and it’s been downhill ever since: When would have been the cutoff point to declare a boycott? Fidesz fraud has been seamless…

Member

And Fidesz’s fleet of amoral attorrneys makes OJ Simpson’s “Dream Team” look like peewee league traffic-ticket fixers…

Member

… make that ORBAN’S ARMADA OF AMORAL ATTORNEYS… (it’s frustrating when one’s only defence weapon is alliteration…)

Guest

Stevan is right:

Fidesz has made so many new laws (800 or even a thousand?) in the last four years that it’s impossible to follow them and try to analyse their impact – even for a political professional. I already joked about this:

The quality and quantity of Fidesz lawmaking in parliament reminds me of a Chinese assembly line where cheap products in garish colours are made in large numbers by people who don’t know or care what those products will be used for – only to fall apart after being used once or twice …

The whole system is like a parody (like the North Korean system to which I compare it regularly when friends in Germany ask me about it …) and maybe in some future time will be treated as such by political students everywhere.

Member

…indignant alliteration.

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