Elections in Hungary

By December 14, 2013 Uncategorized No Comments
hungary-ratings

LAST UPDATED [12/15/13] – Next elections will be Parliamentary elections scheduled for Spring 2014. It will be the first election under the new Hungarian Constitution.

RATINGS

Freedom: Rated 1 on a scale of 1-6, with 1 being most free. Overall civil liberties and political freedoms trended downward in 2010, due to passage of a controversial new constitution, with continuing advocacy and litigation resisting the new encroachments on rights.1

Election Risk: Low risk, high integrity; rating 2 on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being most at risk for election fraud.2

2013 Corruption Perception Index: Transparency International has Hungary ranked 47 out of 177 countries.3

Hungarian elections have been quite good in recent years, with hand counted paper ballots, in public, at polling places and are expected to retain high integrity into 2014.

Some deterioration in general political rights took place recently, putting the future trajectory of election transparency at risk. After politicians became embroiled in corruption scandals, voters ousted their leaders. In 2010, a parliamentary supermajority was elected from the opposing party, also embedding a prime minister with a new political ideology. The bunch of them used their supermajority to throw out the old constitution, creating a new, controversial, partisan, and frankly, ideologically chest-thumping version, chock-full of subtle linguistic changes and setups for long-term consolidation of power, putting future freedoms at risk.

ELECTION ACCOUNTING

On April 14, 2013, Transparency International-Hungary issued an alert about potential election fraud in upcoming elections. Hungary doesn’t offer no-fault or automatic absentee voting, but it does offer absentee voting for its citizens while they are out of the country. Hungarian election procedures require these citizens to go to their local embassy to cast an absentee vote.

Accountability for Hungarian expatriate votes will be weak in the upcoming and sure-to-be controversial 2014 election. According to TI-Hungary, new election laws do not require an accounting for Hungarian absentee votes. No voter list is required containing the names of absentee voters, nor for the embassy in which they voted. This lack of accountability, says TI-Hungary, would extend to opposition parties and candidates as well as to the public at large.

GENERAL ISSUES AND CONCERNS

By 2010, following its departure from communism in 1989, Hungary had achieved strong ratings for freedom and economic strength. Described by Wikipedia as “a developed country with a high-income economy,”4 Hungary was enjoying strong civil liberties and political rights.

The new constitution may have weakened freedom of the press, freedom of information, political finance transparency, with some negative impact also on right to vote and election accounting transparency. Specifically, the new constitution allowed the government to require media licensing and, therefore, to be able to revoke licensing for any media outlet. It also allowed the government to impose fines on media (including Internet sites, broadcast, and print media) based on vague content guidelines. Subtle changes were enacted in its Freedom of Information system, removing the independent ombudsman over right to know requests to replace the position with a non-independent authority. Several of these matters have been subject to ongoing litigation, some may be rolled back or adjusted.

The Hungarian constitution used to say: “In the Republic of Hungary supreme power is vested in the people, who exercise their sovereign rights directly and through elected representatives.”

When the new Hungarian conservative supermajority changed the constitution, it weakened wording on sovereign rights. Now it says: “The source of public power shall be the people. …The people shall exercise its power through its elected representatives…”

What empowered these anti-democratic measures was election of a two-thirds majority from just one political point of view. No matter how passionately you believe that your own political point of view is right, and the opposition is wrong, simply having a robust opposition is a key part of healthy democratic stability. Without a balance and lacking meaningful opposition, partisans can make changes that are difficult to undo.

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Concepts:

Election transparency: Election transparency is the public ability to see and verify each essential step in elections, the essential steps being: (1) who can vote (voter list), (2) who did vote (poll list, or participating voter list), (3) counting of the vote, and (4) chain of custody. Reasons for transparency with sources: http://blackboxvoting.org/transparency/
All Black Box Voting stories related to election transparency: http://blackboxvoting.org/category/election-transparency/

NOTES:

  1. Freedom House: Freedom in the World 2013- Hungary Report. New York, US: Rowman & Littlefield (2013) ISBN 978-1-4422-0122-4
  2. Election Risk Rating: compiled by Black Box Voting by applying an election integrity taxonomy to public records, news reports, citizen reports and field observations.
  3. The Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index (see: http://cpi.transparency.org/cpi2013/results/ )ranks countries and territories based on how corrupt their public sector is perceived to be. A country or territory’s score indicates the perceived level of public sector corruption on a scale of 0 – 100, where 0 means that a country is perceived as highly corrupt and 100 means it is perceived as very clean. A country’s rank indicates its position relative to the other countries and territories included in the index. This year’s index includes 177 countries and territories.
  4. <a href=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hungary”>Wikipedia, Hungary</a>

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