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Left fears election fraud

August 5th, 2013

Left-wing commentators fear that the rules of non-resident external voting will encourage fraud. They explore several scenarios of vote rigging and accuse the government of consciously leaving such loopholes in the legislation.

The new Electoral Act offers voting rights for Hungarians citizens without permanent residence in the country. Non-resident citizens need to register to be eligible to vote, but only for party lists, not for single seat candidates.

The new rules stipulate that registered non-residents voters may submit their votes by mail or at Hungarian embassies and consulates. The ballot itself needs to be put in a closed envelope, which should be enclosed in a separate envelope containing the personal data of the voter. After pooling the envelopes containing the external votes, a multi-party election committee opens the envelope and checks the validity of the personal data in the non-resident registry, then puts the closed envelope with the actual ballot in another box to be opened on Election Day only. The procedure is intended to ensure anonymity and to prevent fraud. The MSZP, however, demands further guarantees, and proposes that external voters should be sent a receipt for their ballot and also that only persons with the written authorization of voters should have the right to submit someone else’s envelopes containing the ballots.

Fidesz MP Gergely Gulyás dismissed the accusations and said that the rules of external voting mirror similar regulations prevalent in the EU, and rule out the possibility of mass fraud.

According to varying estimates, 100,000 to 200,000 non-resident Hungarians will vote in the 2014 parliamentary elections, in which case the votes of the external constituency will determine between 1 and 3 seats in Parliament.

Is Fidesz about to rig the election?Népszava wonders. The left-wing daily fears that the absence of identity checks (whether by mail or at embassies) opens up the possibility of fraud, since there is no way of verifying whether the ballots are actually filled out and submitted by the registered voters themselves. To make things worse, the list of external voters will be kept secret in order to protect Hungarians living in countries where dual citizenship is illegal, and thus the validity of the non-resident ballots cannot be checked, Népszava adds.

In a separate piece, Népszava claims that “the regulations on external voting are full of loopholes which make fraud possible.” The left-wing daily points out that the influence of transborder Hungarians may significantly increase if many of them decide to register a permanent address in Hungary before the 2014 election. In this case, they would also have the right to vote for single seat candidates, “which would without doubt help Fidesz”, Népszava contends.

In a third report on the subject, quoting Zoltán Tóth, former director of the National Election Committee, Népszava notes that Hungarian campaign rules are not in force beyond the borders, thus Hungarian parties may try to mobilize non-resident voters in ways which are illegal within the country. The left-wing daily also believes that Hungarian right-wing parties will use friendly transborder parties and organizations of the Hungarian minority to mobilize voters.

On the same note, Károly Lencsés in Népszabadság writes that the rules do not guarantee the secrecy of voting. Non-resident Hungarians do not need to fill in their ballots in voting booths, and so it may happen that they will literally sell their ballots. In addition, anyone who gets hold of the secret registry of non-resident Hungarian voters may easily submit votes in their names, Lencsés speculates. In such cases, the Hungarian authorities would have no means to tell which vote is real, and which is the fraudulent.

The same daily citing Róbert László, analyst of liberal think tank Political Capital maintains that .

The left is preparing for defeat at the 2014 election by introducing into the public discourse the theme of rigged elections, rightwing political analysts speculate in Magyar Nemzet. Political scientist and government aide Levente Boros Bánk quotes an unnamed source, according to whom EU politicians and the Hungarian opposition parties plan to claim fraud after the 2014 election and thus challenge the legitimacy of Orbán’s victory (see BudaPost June 20). Political scientist Zoltán Kiszely adds that the left in 2002 and 2004 mobilized its supporters by campaigning against benefits and citizenship to be offered to transborder Hungarians. This strategy, Kiszely believes, is unlikely to pay off this time. As for the fears of electoral fraud, Kiszely said that the regulations contain sufficient guarantees against abuse.

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