Entries RSS Feed Share Send to Facebook Tweet This Accessible version

Mandatory voter registration under scrutiny

November 5th, 2012

Centrist and left-wing analysts agree that the new system was devised to help Fidesz at the 2014 elections, but may backfire by uniting the opposition and turning away disillusioned Fidesz-voters.

In an analysis published in the centrist pro-government Heti Válasz, Gábor Török argues that the Together – 2014 movement (see BudaPost October 25 and 26) is a political reaction to the position FIDESZ-KDNP occupies on the right and to ”political engineering” by the governing parties. The present tinkering with the election process favours Fidesz as long as their only credible opponent is MSZP and there are many undecided voters. However, “in a political game, there is more than one player”, he notes, suggesting that the alliance announced by Bajnai on October 23rd is probably the best move in the game for the opposition. The opposition now has to go beyond adding up their likely voters and reach out for the undecided. Bajnai can be the face of a coalition that first attracts adherents of the civil movements and disappointed voters and later forges an alliance with the present opposition parties. There are several vulnerable spots in this scenario, starting with the question whether Bajnai can indeed be attractive to the intended constituencies. Another weak point is the ability of MSZP and LMP to cooperate, and finally whether their potential cooperation will allow the parties to form independent factions in parliament after the elections. Even more difficulties would follow when it comes to agreeing on a political platform, not to mention the vastly more difficult task of actually forming a government. Yet these are bridges to be crossed later: at present the most important problem for both sides is how to win the elections, the analyst concludes.

In an interview in Magyar Narancs, Fidesz MP Gergely Gulyás defends the newly enacted rule on mandatory voters’ registration. Fidesz’s main expert on constitutional matters originally intended to submit the new rule to the Constitutional Court, but says he was overruled by the majority of his party that wanted to enshrine it into the Constitution. Gulyás admits that it is now impossible to tell whether the Constitutional Court would have found mandatory registration in contradiction with the principle of universal suffrage. He finds the debate concerning the registration “academic”, as most Hungarians do not find it an important issue, he contends. It is only intellectuals who try to “scare” people without any good reason, as registering once in four years cannot really be such a nuisance. To the question why the national registry – so far used to identify voters at the polling stations – is not sufficient, Gulyás replied that the registry is not completely reliable and there is no time to build a new system when the next elections are around the corner.

In Népszava, legal sociologist Zoltán Fleck claims that there is a last resort for a united opposition if they come to power: the right of resistance. He argues that PM Orbán’s work has to be completely undone, “as if we pushed the reset button”, and a new parliament should convene a constituent assembly, where the present opposition parties would find some compromise “with the democratic section of the Hungarian right”. Orbán will modify the constitution whenever he feels like it, Fleck claims, and the latest amendment is certainly not the last one. “If there is a threat that the Constitutional Court would find a new law unconstitutional, they will simply inserts it in the constitution”, he complains, even supposing that the Constitutional Court, packed by Orbán with his “soldiers”, has the guts to ask questions. Whatever the outcome in 2014, he concludes, the solutions will be painful.

In Heti Válasz, András Stumpf finds Bajnai and his comeback speech less than convincing: apart from his struggle with language, his claims also sounded almost absurd. How can former Prime Minister Bajnai say that voters had “good reason” to oust the Socialist party from power in 2010, when he happened to be Prime Minister? – Stumpf asks. He also found Bajnai’s self-description – that he had never been a politician, nor wanted to become one, until he felt morally obliged to fight Viktor Orbán – absolutely ridiculous, citing a 2011 report in Heti Válasz that described efforts by Bajnai’s think-tank to form an opposition coalition.  Despite all these failings, polls which show that about 2 million Hungarian voters do not know whom to vote for, should be taken seriously, Stumpf warns.  Based on answers as to whom the undecided are less likely to vote for, Bajnai could count on about one million votes. The early registration, says the author, will simply offer a long campaign period to woo voters for Bajnai, while MSZP can inch closer, and this may result in an election result where Bajnai, failings and all, will become prime minister. This is bad news – says Stumpf – but only if Viktor Orbán continues to disregard the undecided. If only the Prime Minister started avoiding unnecessary conflicts and behaving predictably,  sighs the author, then the game might not be lost.

Tags: , , ,