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Socialists propose ‘positive census’

June 22nd, 2012

Commenting on an MSZP proposal to introduce mandatory voting, Róbert Friss in Népszabadság fears that rewarding active voters would neither help to roll back populism nor increase democratic legitimacy.

Zsolt Molnár, a Socialist MP, proposed the introduction of compulsory voting as an alternative to the mandatory pre-registration proposed by Fidesz (see BudaPost October 15, 2011 and June 2, 2012). Molnár believes that compulsory voting would strengthen democratic legitimacy by increasing turnout. According to the proposal, those who do not vote would lose minor benefits and entitlements.

In Népszabadság, Róbert Friss suggests that both left and right wing parties are trying to limit the influence of the masses by introducing mandatory pre-registration, compulsory voting or a second House. The left-wing columnist acknowledges that such measures are present not only in authoritarian regimes, but also in well-established democracies.

“But bearing in mind that Hungary is only a quasi-democracy, even ‘positive census’ measures are unacceptable,” Friss contends. In such a “dismembered democracy”, by staying away from the ballot box, voters express their overall discontent with the political and the party system, Friss believes.

The left-wing commentator also doubts whether compulsory voting would strengthen democratic legitimacy or help curb populist rhetoric. Public spiritedness cannot be coerced, Friss remarks. It is not only the masses who are responsible for widespread demagoguery, but also the elites which use the cheapest populist rhetoric in order to gain more support, he concludes.

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