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Mesterházy’s criticism of the electoral system

February 11th, 2014

A moderately conservative analyst argues that the Socialist leader should not have evoked left wing precedents in his criticism of the new electoral rules, as the present government has followed in the footsteps of a previous Socialist-led coalition.

Pondering on his webpage whether the forthcoming elections can be called free, Socialist Party Chairman Attila Mesterházy said they can if the opposition will be alert enough and if international observers guarantee the fairness of the vote. At the same time he accused the current majority of having changed the electoral rules in their own favour, among other things by introducing a “first past the post” system where mandates can be obtained with a mere relative majority. He reminded his readers of the late Socialist leader and Prime Minister Gyula Horn, who, despite his 70 per cent majority in parliament “remained a democrat”’, that is to say, that he refrained from introducing sweeping constitutional changes, although it was in his power to do so.

On Mandiner, editor Ákos Gergely Balogh remarks that Mesterházy could have chosen a better example, for the recent changes are in part carbon copies of what Gyula Horn’s government introduced in 1994. In fact, right after their victory at the parliamentary elections, the Socialists and their Liberal partners introduced the “first past the post” system in the elections for mayors and city councils. Since they were united and were facing a divided opposition, they won an overwhelming majority in local assemblies. As it often happens with such therapies, those changes had an unpleasant by-effect – they forced the right-wing opposition to coalesce into one single camp, which is probably the main factor behind the presence of a compact right wing in Hungary, Balogh suggests. For the same reason, he concludes, right-wingers might live to regret these changes one day, as they might profit from them at the coming elections, but in the long run the “first past the post” system may bring feuding left-wing movements together.


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