The Hungarian election system

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban returned to power in 2010 with a two-thirds parliamentary majority that allowed him to rewrite the election rules.

The Hungarian election system

World Bulletin / News Desk


The current system has been criticised as favouring his ruling Fidesz party that won another two-thirds majority in 2014 with less than half of votes cast (around 45 percent) by Hungary's eight-million-strong electorate.

In 2014 the OSCE called the Hungarian election system "free but not fair". Here are the most controversial elements of the system.

- Majority rule -
"Fidesz knew that their 2.7 million votes was a peak, and that only way was down, so they needed rule changes to maximise the power of a minority bloc of around 2 to 2.3 million voters," says analyst Robert Laszlo at the Political Capital think-tank.

The changes mean that some 53 percent of the parliamentary seats (106 of a total of 199) are won on a majority "first-past-the-post" basis in individual constituencies, up from 43 percent before.

The remaining 93 seats are won on a broadly proportional basis, according to votes cast for parties' national lists. A second round of voting in the previous system was eliminated.

In 2014, Fidesz won 96 of the 106 constituency seats despite having an absolute majority in only 20.

Under the previous system, Fidesz candidates in constituencies where they had only a relative majority would likely have been beaten in the second round in a face-off with the remaining opposition candidate.

However, Laszlo adds that the system doesn't give Fidesz "lifetime insurance" and that it could help the opposition if they cooperate more closely.

- Winner's compensation -
In many electoral systems, votes cast in electoral districts for losing candidates are "lost" so as compensation they are added to their respective party list.

Hungary's system is unusual in that votes for winning candidates above the total needed to win are also considered lost and are added to the party list votes.

- Gerrymandering -
Boundaries for electoral districts were redrawn, and tended to concentrate opposition voters in larger electoral districts, and Fidesz voters in smaller ones.

The redrawing was politically motivated, or "gerrymandered", giving Fidesz a built-in advantage, according to analysts.

According to some estimates the opposition needs to gain an estimated three to four percent more votes on the national lists in order to beat Fidesz.

- Votes from ethnic Hungarians abroad -
Ethnic Hungarians living in neighbouring countries as a result of the post-World War I Trianon treaty in 1920 can vote by post in elections since 2014 thanks to laws on dual citizenship and voting rights brought in under Orban.

Four years ago some 130,000 "new" dual citizens, mostly in Romania and Serbia, voted overwhelmingly for Fidesz, helping it to win a two-thirds majority by just one mandate.

Around double that number is expected to vote for Fidesz from "beyond the borders" this time round.

By contrast those born in Hungary who now live abroad (a community assumed to be less favourable to Orban) cannot vote by post but must visit an embassy or consulate in person.

- Campaigning -
The rules stipulate that media can only run political party advertising for free during the campaign period but few outlets do so, citing economic reasons.

In contrast, the government is allowed to run information campaigns at all times that closely align with Fidesz themes.

Last Mod: 08 Nisan 2018, 15:39
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