Tag Archives: national election

MSZP and DK at the negotiating table

Although most people would consider a Fidesz win at the next national election preordained, several political analysts consider the situation not that straightforward. There are several reasons to believe that Fidesz’s road to victory might be more difficult than it would seem at first glance. First of all, Fidesz voters at the moment appear to be complacent. Four years ago Fidesz was very effective in getting out the vote. But in several recent by-elections relatively few Fidesz voters bothered to go to the polls. Second, we know that the majority of voters would like to see a change of government. Only the sorry state of the opposition is responsible for the enormous Fidesz lead. Third, although opinion polls show an unstoppable Fidesz, support for the government party is usually overestimated in polls. Fourth, although few analysts pay enough attention to it, dramatic changes are taking place on the left that might change the political landscape. Here I am referring to the slow but steady disintegration of MSZP. Fifth, there is still an untapped pool of 1.5 million men and women who tell pollsters that they will definitely vote but at the moment are still undecided about their party preferences. These conditions, I believe, provide a level of political fluidity that may result in a closer election than most people expect.

Today I will concentrate on party politics, primarily the battle between MSZP and DK. Ever since László Botka decided to throw in the towel, both DK and MSZP politicians have been telling us that they are furiously and effectively negotiating. The winner of these protracted negotiations seems to be the Demokratikus Koalíció. According to the latest public opinion polls by Závecz Research and Medián, the difference between MSZP and DK is only 2%, in favor of MSZP, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if in the November polls DK would surpass MSZP.

Why? DK just launched its election campaign with an impressive program, whose highlight was an hour-long speech by Ferenc Gyurcsány. We know from past experience that Gyurcsány is an effective campaigner. Also helping DK is its campaign against the voting rights of dual citizens which, I understand, is going well. With this issue DK is reaching people across the political spectrum because we know that a great majority of the Hungarian electorate opposes voting rights for those who don’t bear the burden of their decisions at the ballot box. DK obviously finds this approach to be of such importance that the party is investing in robocalls, to take place this week. With all this effort, I expect a surge in DK support. Of course, the question is whether DK will be able to appeal to any of those 1.5 million unaffiliated voters or will only siphon off disenchanted MSZP voters.

First, a few words about the gala opening of DK’s campaign. Judging from the video, it was a glitzy affair with lots of enthusiasm for the party’s chairman. The occasion  reminded Gábor Török, a political analyst, of American political rallies. In Török’s opinion, Gyurcsány is an oddity of sorts in Hungarian politics because he knows what his political interests are and he works resolutely on achieving his goals. On Olga Kálmán’s program on Hír TV Török called him “a potent politician.”

If there is agreement on the 106 electoral districts, which means only one opposition politician against the Fidesz candidate, Gyurcsány said he is “absolutely optimistic about the election.” At the moment, he believes that his support is 12-13%, as opposed to the 10% reported by Medián and Závecz, and he hopes that by election time DK might reach 15%. This is probably too optimistic an assessment of the chances of the opposition at the forthcoming election, especially since there are serious obstacles to DK and MSZP agreeing on those 106 electoral districts. At one point negotiations broke down, and a few days ago MSZP announced that, in addition to István Haller and Bertalan Tóth, two former chairmen, Attila Mesterházy and József Tóbiás, will join the MSZP negotiating team.

Apparently, in at least two districts there was a serious rift between the two parties over whose candidate will be the Fidesz challenger. One was the electoral district in Újpest; the other, one of the two seats in the city of Szeged. Let’s start with Újpest because its fate has already been decided. MSZP caved. László Varju (DK) will replace Imre Horváth (MSZP). In response, Horváth left the party, although he will sit with the MSZP delegation between now and the end of the current parliamentary session. This is a sad turn of events because in November 2014 Horváth, against all odds, won a by-election after the death of Péter Kiss. It was a tremendous victory. Péter Kiss in the spring had received 40.7% of the votes while the Fidesz candidate got 35.2%. In November Horváth got 50.6% of the votes and his opponent only 30.6%. No wonder that now, three years later, Horváth feels that his party has thrown him to the dogs, allowing DK to take over a traditionally socialist district. According to rumor, Horváth either will run as an independent or perhaps he will be LMP’s candidate, running, of course, in the same district against Varju.

Another bone of contention is one of the two Szeged districts that the local MSZP people refuse to hand over to DK. László Botka, the mayor of Szeged and former MSZP candidate for prime minister, is still strong enough to defend his territory against the MSZP negotiating team. István Ujhelyi, a member of the European Parliament and a strong Botka supporter, gave a press conference in Brussels, of all places, where he said that the local MSZP leadership has no intention of replacing a “winning team,” a claim that is only partially true. It is correct to say that Sándor Szabó (MSZP-Együtt-DK-PM) won one of the two Szeged districts, but the other went to László B. Nagy (Fidesz). The local MSZP’s candidate for the second district is Márton Joób, a MSZP-DK-Együtt-PM member of the city council and a close associate of Botka. Given the very loose party discipline in MSZP, it is not exactly easy to negotiate with the socialists. The center might make decisions that the national leadership finds important for the party as a whole, but the local party leadership can rebel, citing its own priorities.

All of this is hellishly complicated. The electoral law devised by Fidesz counted on just these kinds of situations that occur in each and every electoral district when it comes to dividing the political terrain among several parties. On the other side, Viktor Orbán handpicks the candidates, who are nothing more than loyal voting machines.

November 22, 2017

The Újpest election: A large gain for the left

Some people might argue that the socialist win in the parliamentary election that had to be repeated in Budapest’s 11th electoral district was a foregone conclusion and is not even worth talking about. At least this is what Fidesz wants its supporters to believe. The new election in Újpest was occasioned by the death of Péter Kiss, an important and beloved politician within MSZP, on July 29 at the age of 55. Before the national election in April the party knew that Kiss had cancer and might not live to take his place in parliament, but by endorsing his candidacy they wanted to lift his spirits. Újpest is an old socialist stronghold where Kiss won time and again, and he won again this time although with a smaller margin than in the past.

Imre Horváth, the elderly gentleman as András Schiffer called him

Imre Horváth, the elderly gentleman, as András Schiffer called him

MSZP named a locally well-known man, Imre Horváth, a former officer in the border guard, to run for the vacant seat. During the campaign it was discovered that Horváth, like all border guard officers, took a half year course in Moscow under the aegis of the KGB. Naturally, the opposition was up in arms. As a result, the Demokratikus Koalíció and Együtt-PM withdrew their support. Yet it seems that this campaign against him made nary a dent. Horváth won big.

After receiving the final results, Fidesz announced that “nothing has changed.” After all, a socialist won last time and it was expected that the new socialist candidate would easily win the district. A closer look at the numbers, however, reveals a considerable loss of support for Fidesz and a large gain for the left.

First, let’s take a look at the figures from the April national election. Péter Kiss received 40.7% of the votes while Fidesz’s candidate got 35.2%. And here are the new figures. Horváth received 50.62% of the votes while his Fidesz opponent, Antal Hollósi, got only 30.67%. It seems that in the last six months Fidesz lost about 5% of its voters–or at least the party was unable to mobilize them. Jobbik and LMP also lost support. In April 12.7% of the voters chose Jobbik and LMP garnered 7.1% of the votes. These figures also shrank despite the fact that Jobbik’s candidate was a popular soccer player for the Újpest team. This time Jobbik received only 9.8% and LMP only 5.1% of the votes.

Horváth’s win was impressive. He won at every polling station with the exception of one, in which he and the Fidesz candidate got the same number of votes. That station in October, at the municipal election, was Fidesz territory. At one of the polling stations Horváth received twice as many votes as his opponent. Voting participation, as usual at by-elections, was low but not lower than average.

Speaking of Újpest, I read with some amusement András Schiffer’s assessment of the situation in this district. According to the chairman of LMP, the stakes in this particular election were high. The question was whether a new era is beginning in Hungarian politics; if so, the results may even influence the outcome of the 2018 election. Schiffer may have been right, but of course he was thinking about his own party’s candidate, who ended up with 5.1% of the votes.

There will be another election sometime at the beginning of next year in Veszprém, where Tibor Navracsics’s seat will be contested. Tibor Navracsics, earlier minister of justice and and then minister of foreign affairs and trade, became Hungary’s commissioner on Jean-Claude Juncker’s European Commission. Thus he had to resign his seat. If the left were to win that seat, Fidesz would lose its two-thirds majority. That’s a long shot. Navracsics won in April with 51.85% of the votes while his socialist opponent, Béla Pál, got only 24.99%.

Lately there have been two national polls, and both indicated a loss of support for Fidesz. Nézőpont Intézet, a firm close to Fidesz, showed a 3% loss between October 14 and November 3 for the ruling party and a considerable gain for Jobbik and LMP. Two days ago Ipsos came out with a new poll that indicated an even greater loss for Fidesz–a full 5%, which means 500,000 potential voters. Ipsos’s results showed practically no gain for the other parties. Those who would no longer vote for Fidesz moved over to the large camp (35%) of undecided voters. I suspect that Fidesz’s downward spiral will continue given the mood of the country.

It is hard to tell whether the results of the Újpest election indicate a real change in the political landscape or not, but one cannot ignore a 10% gain for a candidate who was not nationally known and who had never been in national politics.

Thousands of fraudulent endorsements and still no investigation

More and more evidence surfaces daily about large-scale electoral fraud even though the election is still more than a week away. Ever since March 1 there have been rumors about how newly established parties got hold of an incredible number of endorsements. Some of these parties were formed in order to receive generous government support, others to weaken Fidesz’s opposition. It was discovered early on that some, if not most, of the signatures were fake. In one case, one of the employees of the office handling election matters discovered his own name on an endorsement list. The man went to the local police, but the municipal official in charge of matters connected to the election refused to do anything because the fake signature “doesn’t materially influence the outcome.” After all, he claimed, the candidate has more than enough bona fide signatures. These are the people who are supposed to make sure that the election will not be fraudulent.

Soon enough it became clear that no one would check the validity of signatures even though a week later serious questions were raised. Attila Péterfalvi, the man responsible for data protection, didn’t seem to be bothered by proof of fraudulent endorsements. He announced that it would take too long to check the validity of the names and signatures. It would be impossible to undertake such an arduous task. I guess I don’t have to tell anyone that Péterfalvi, who was ombudsman before 2010, is a devoted Fidesz man.

I don’t know how long the Hungarian administration can maintain that everything is in perfectly good order given the current state of the election process. Three days ago one young man, who was a volunteer for the Magyarországi Cigánypárt (MCP), came forward. He claimed that not just MCP but to his knowledge at least four other parties exchanged lists and endorsements. Aladár Horváth, chairman of the Gypsy party, denied all charges. He denigrated the work of the volunteers who, according to him, did more harm than good, and he accused MSZP of hiring the young activist to level false charges against MCP. As he contended, MSZP has a Roma section that was opposed to Horváth and his friends organizing a separate party, and now these people are paying MCP back for being “traitors” to the cause.

Yesterday 8,000-10,000 photocopied endorsement lists were sent by an unnamed person to László Helmeczy, an Együtt-PM candidate who is a lawyer and a former Fidesz member. Helmeczy, by the way, must be an excellent lawyer because in the past important politicians asked him to represent them in politically motivated cases. For example, Ibolya Dávid, herself a lawyer and former minister of justice in the first Orbán administration. Or János Veres, former MSZP minister of finance in the Gyurcsány administration.

Tibor Szanyi (MSZP) and Viktor Szigetvári (Együtt-PM) immediately turned to the National Election Committee. It is the committee’s duty to investigate cases of electoral fraud.

After looking at the material, Összefogás came to the conclusion that not just five but ten parties were involved. Keep in mind that eighteen parties are on the ballot. Here is the list of parties that presumably submitted phony endorsements: Új Magyarország Párt, Új Dimenzió Párt, Kisgazdapárt-MIÉP, Szabad Választók Pártja, Szociáldemokraták Magyar Polgári Pártja, Sportos és Egészséges Magyarországért Párt, Magyarországi Cigány Párt, Összefogás Párt, Elégedetlenek Pártja, and Jólét és Szabadság Demokrata Közösség. Now it is up to the National Election Committee to decide what to do. Of course, it is possible that in usual Fidesz fashion the committee will simply ignore the whole thing, although I have the feeling that the government is already feeling the pinch of foreign criticism.

As a first line of defense the Hungarian government decided to “explain” that the critics are wrong and that the new Hungarian electoral law is much better than its predecessor, which was the result of a compromise between communist apparatchiks and the new opposition in 1989-1990. The document, which is unsigned, was distributed to a select list of Americans in the DC area. It answers the “myths” that are circulating about the Hungarian election and and gives the “facts.”

I would like to call attention to problems that the document doesn’t even try to tackle. For example, the handling of foreign votes; the distinction between new citizens and citizens by birth right; the very limited opportunities for the opposition to be heard; and the government propaganda that is being broadcast on public television and radio. And naturally it says nothing about fraud committed by the government-funded fake parties.

Three important civic supporters of Fidesz László dizmadia (FÖF), András Bencsik (Magyar Demokrata, and Zsolt Bayer (Magyar Hírlap

Three important organizers of CÖF/Békemenetth
László Csizmadia, András Bencsik, and Zsolt Bayer

Yesterday we got proof that CÖF, the famously” independent” civic organization that was suspected of receiving Fidesz and/or government financing, was indeed organized by Fidesz. A telephone conversation was recorded between a citizen and a Fidesz party official about a free bus ride to CÖF’s big demonstration next Saturday. It became apparent that Fidesz party headquarters is organizing the bus rides to the capital. All of CÖF’s campaign posters are in reality Fidesz posters.

Here is the Hungarian government’s propaganda leaflet, which might interest you.

* * *

HUNGARY ELECTIONS: MYTHS AND FACTS

MYTH: The governing Fidesz-KDNP party alliance unilaterally and hastily changed a well-functioning electoral system before the elections to ensure electoral victory in 2014.

FACT: Hungary’s hybrid electoral system was one of the most complicated in Europe,1 mainly because it was a result of a difficult political compromise of the 1989/90 roundtable negotiations between the communist state party and the democratic opposition.2 Adjusting the electoral system was not Fidesz’s new idea. Since 1990, every major party in Hungary had their own reform proposals, but no party or coalition had a strong enough majority (two-thirds) to pursue fundamental changes in the electoral law. An average voter could not fully understand or explain how their votes turn into mandates. The system needed more transparency and simplification. The new electoral law was adopted in 2011, three years prior to the elections and the electoral procedural law was adopted in 2013, one year prior to the elections, following a 7 month long debate in Parliament. To predict that the new system will favor Fidesz is a hypothesis that lacks real empirical evidence, since the new system has never been tested before, all parties act under a veil of uncertainty. By now, one of the most obvious result of the electoral reform was that it made it easier for political parties to enter the race and register candidates, so if anything, it has widened the scope of democratic choice and enhanced political competition for all parties.3

MYTH: Establishing a single round of voting instead of the previous two round (run-off system) was designed to make it even harder for small parties to win seats in the individual districts.

FACT: The two-round system was costly and it became redundant because with time, parties adjusted electoral strategies and many of the races were already won in the first round of the elections (hence the traditionally low voter turnout in the 2nd round). Small parties never really had a good chance of winning seats through the individual districts alone, since winning these races required an absolute majority in the first round or a relative majority in the second round. Most importantly, the single round system increases transparency because previously small parties usually withdrew before the second round to support their political allies based on behind-the-scenes bargains in which the voters never had a say. Supporters of the smaller parties usually ended up voting for their first preference in the first round without knowing if their favorite party will even compete in the second round. The best hope of small parties has always been winning seats through the party list and compensation list and not in the individual districts.4

MYTH: Fidesz gerrymandered electoral districts to ensure its own victory.

FACT: Parliament was required to redraw the electoral districts for the 2010 elections, not only because the number of MPs was cut in half and the number of electoral districts was reduced, but also because the Constitutional Court invalidated the district map in 2010 so elections could not have been legitimately held on that basis. The electoral district map which was used for the past six elections was unilaterally drawn by communist party apparatchiks and implemented by a Ministerial Decree before the first democratic elections took place, the thus created district map was not subject of the grand bargains of the Roundtable negotiations and there was no system for revisions despite significant population changes in the last decades. The Constitutional Court ruled on two accounts that the existing voting districts are unconstitutionally disproportional (e.g. Constituency No. in Pest County: 74,000 voters vs. constituency No. 06 in Veszprém  County: 27,00 voters). The size of the Parliament was also reduced in 2010 from 386 (which was a disproportionately large number of MPs for a country of 10 million) to 199, which also necessitated changes in the districts. The current system takes into account the Venice Commission’s recommendations, i.e. that deviation from the norm should not be more than 10% or 15% (in special circumstances) and furthermore the new law stipulates a trigger for automatic redistricting in case the deviation from the norm in a district exceeds 20%. Gerrymandering in favor of any party is constrained in the current law since the districts are required to cover a contiguous territory and must remain within the county borders. Since the relevant law was adopted, no party filed a constitutional complaint to challenge the district boundaries.

MYTH: Fidesz raised the threshold for the opposition alliance from 5% to 15%.

FACT: The parliamentary threshold did not change since 1994. The threshold has always been higher for party alliances: 10 per cent for two parties running together and 15 per cent for more than two parties. The same rules applied in 2002 when Fidesz and MDF ran together and in 2006 and 2010 when Fidesz and KDNP ran together. And the same rules will apply this year for the Fidesz-KDNP list (10%) and the MSZP-Együtt-PM-DK-MLP alliance (15%).

MYTH: Fidesz granted voting rights to Hungarians abroad to win the elections.

FACT: First, Hungarian citizens living or temporarily residing abroad who had a permanent residence in Hungary had the right to vote since 2004. Second, the simplified naturalization of ethnic Hungarians living abroad who might or might not have a permanent address in Hungary was supported by all of the parties in the Parliament in 2010. Hungarians who do not have a permanent residence address in Hungary and have registered to vote can cast by mail only one vote for the party list, while those who have a permanent address have to vote in person at Hungarian embassies and consulates, but can cast two votes, one for the individual candidate in the district where their address is located and one for the party list. As a general rule, larger parties focus on winning individual districts where their comparative chances are better, while smaller parties benefit more from party lists because of the proportional system. Generally, whichever party wins in the individual districts also wins the elections, so the newly naturalized citizens’ vote (about 230,000 registered voters vs. 8 million eligible voters residing in Hungary) will only be decisive in a very close race. Besides, no opinion poll has ever been conducted on the political preferences of out of country vote, so any conclusion based on this cohort’s vote is extremely hypothetical.

MYTH: The new campaign finance law makes it easier for “fake political parties” to run on public money, which divides the anti-Fidesz vote.

FACT: The reason why the law on public financing of parties was introduced is precisely to bring accountability to the system. The new rules on how public money is spent are much stricter than the old rules, since the State Audit Office shall review the campaign spending of all parties that get into the Parliament. Besides, in a democratic society, one cannot distinguish between “fake parties” and “real parties.” Candidates who do not obtain parliamentary mandates and don’t get more than 2% of the votes must repay the public funding they have received which ensures that candidates who don’t have a legitimate support don’t receive undue taxpayer money.

MYTH: Political campaign ads were banned from commercial TV stations so voters won’t be able to make an informed decision.

FACT: On the contrary, campaign rules were tightened to make commercial TV campaigns more equitable and fair by providing equal representation in public media and requiring commercial channels to air political advertisements for free. Many European countries regulate campaign advertising. In Hungary, it was the decision of the individual private TV stations not to air political ads for free, which the government has no business in overwriting. But all the parties that were able to put up a national list now enjoy free equal airtime on public television and radio, which is a guaranteed platform widely accessible and regulated by strict rules to ensure fairness.

MYTH: The new electoral bodies are not independent.

FACT: There are two bodies overseeing and managing the elections: 1) the National Election Commission, whose tasks are establishing the results of the elections; ensuring the impartiality, fairness and legality of elections; adjudging legal remedies and restoring the legal order of elections if necessary; 2) the National Election Office, which is tasked with preparing and conducting elections (providing impartial information to voters, candidates and nominating organizations; aiding the activity of the National Election Commission; providing the material and technical conditions for the implementation of elections; and conducting the operation of election offices on territorial and local level). The members of the National Election Commission were previously nominated by the minister responsible for the elections, while now the President of the Republic nominates them and the Parliament confirms them by two-third-majority rather than by simple majority as previously. At the same time, the Commissioners’ mandate was extended from 4 to 9 years, i.e. longer than the parliamentary cycle, which is an attribute of independence. The commissioners’ benefits and remuneration are strictly regulated and they are now required to hold a law degree. As to the National Election Office, previously it operated as an arm of the executive branch (a department within the responsible ministry), with its head appointed by the responsible minister for an indefinite term. Now it functions as an autonomous body subject exclusively to the relevant law and hence it is separated from the executive branch. Its head is appointed by the President of the Republic for nine years.

NOTES

[1]The Hungarian hybrid system was a combination of the winner-takes-all system (see UK, US), proportional (PR) system (see GE, IT, ES) based on the Hagenbach-Bischoff formula, and compensation list based on the D’Hondt formula. It is therefore composed of (i) individual candidates running in voter districts and (ii) party lists. Voters cast their ballots both for an individual candidate and a party list.

[2]The communist state party and its successor (MSZP) was in favor of the winner takes all system since they were the only ones with national organization, while the newer, smaller parties were in favor of a PR (list) system which would have made sure that they are represented in parliament even if they cannot win in the individual districts.

[3]In the individual districts, a total of 810 candidates ran for elections in 2010, as opposed to 1,577 candidates running this year. Four years ago, only 6 parties could put up a national list, whereas this year 18 parties and 13 national minority party lists qualified. This means increased competition for Fidesz as much as for every other political group in the race.

[4]For example, SZDSZ in 2002 (13 out of 20 mandates won via compensation lists), MIÉP in 1998 (11 out of 14 won via compensation lists), Fidesz in 1994 (13 out of 20 won via compensation lists).

 

 

 

 

The Fót election doesn’t bode well for the future

We are getting closer and closer to the national election, which most likely will be held sometime in early April. Therefore I think we ought to ponder what happened at the municipal election in Fót on and after November 24. Fót may well be an omen of what can be expected at next year’s national election.

Someone who is supported by the three opposition parties wins the election, but a week later, after the local election commission finds everything to be in order and gives its blessing to the results, on the basis of unproven election irregularities a court decision renders the results null and void. Moreover, it not only orders the election to be repeated but forces participants to start the whole procedure over from the beginning, including getting endorsements. The new election will be held in February. Yes, February because the procedure takes that long. Meanwhile Fót’s municipal government is in disarray. In the Fidesz-run town the city fathers, all belonging to Fidesz, have managed to get rid of three mayors in three years.

What happened in Fót is a serious situation and doesn’t bode well for next year’s national election. I will try to provide a timeline of the events.

The first complaint came from Jobbik’s county organization. They claimed that someone reported that a Volkswagen minibus allegedly transported voters from outlying districts. They claimed to know who the owner of the minibus was. It turned out that the man “with MSZP sympathies” sold his Volkswagen years ago. And although they produced a picture of the white bus, it was impossible to ascertain how many people were inside the vehicle or where the photo was taken. So, here the situation was entirely different from the Baja case where there was proof of regular transports by a single man with a single car.

Then came another complaint.  Some people found in their mailboxes a handmade poster without a logo and without the name of any organization which advertised that there would be extra bus runs on the day of the election for easier access to the polling station. As it turned out, the bus schedule was not changed in any way, but it looks as if the three-man panel at the courthouse didn’t find it necessary to ascertain whether the intent had been followed by action. For them the picture of a minibus and a piece of paper promising extra bus runs was enough.

These learned judges rendered their verdict on the basis of §47 of the old electoral law that still regulates election procedures. It says that free transportation service provided by the candidate or the organization he represents is considered to be electoral misconduct. But the verdict in the Fót case says not a word about the candidate or his party or organization that allegedly was behind this dastardly deed. So, from here on every time someone doesn’t like the outcome of an election he can produce a picture of a minibus or come forth with a handwritten crumbled piece of paper announcing extra bus runs and, voila, the election will be declared null and void.

The verdict was so bizarre that the notary of Fót asked twice what the judges actually meant. And the town notary is normally someone with a law degree.

justice

Almost all electoral commissions–local, territorial, and national–are in Fidesz hands, and yet the territorial election committee last Wednesday decided that all was in order. They claimed that even if there had been irregularities such actions couldn’t have influenced the outcome of the election. But then came an appeal from a “private person representing a law firm” who objected. The person asked the court to re-examine the bus route case and, in addition, he called attention to two women who “had in their possession some MSZP-DK-E14 leaflets” and who urged people to vote because “the number of voters is low.” Apparently, they didn’t dispense the leaflets. All in all, we are talking about minor infractions, some of which are unproven.

Was the decision an example of judicial incompetence or were the judges influenced either by their own political views or, even worse, were they subject to some outside influence? It’s hard to tell, but the message is: if an opposition candidate wins, the results will not be allowed to stand. I don’t think too many people remember the 2010 Felcsút municipal election when the man elected mayor was not Viktor Orbán’s favorite Lőrinc Mészáros. The election had to be repeated because it was decided that the winner owed a small fee to the local authorities. He was apparently a Fidesz supporter but not quite the right man.

Of course, from my peaceful rural suburb in Connecticut all this sounds crazy. Why couldn’t I ask my neighbor to take me to vote if my car broke down the day before? What is wrong with someone urging me to go to the polls because participation is low? Of course, nothing. But this is, thank God, not Hungary where for a few bucks you can buy the votes of downtrodden Romas. And then there are the crooked local election committees and the incompetent/crooked judges. As a very bitter opinion piece in HVG said: “there is a brutally misleading electoral procedure. A media that makes equal chances of all parties illusory. A population misled by the state, municipal authorities and even by owners of private companies. There are all sorts of lists. And a wacky opposition that hopes it can get justice from the independent investigative and judicial authorities. Keep hoping!”