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Fidesz blocks extraordinary session

August 24th, 2016

As the governing party obstructs the opposition’s call for an extraordinary session on extending postal voting to temporary absentees, commentators debate whether the current rules are discriminatory.

Jobbik, supported by the left-wing opposition, called for an extraordinary session of the House in order to extend postal voting for Hungarian expatriates. As Fidesz MPs did not show up, the agenda of the meeting could not be approved and the session was cancelled. According to current legislation, only Hungarians who do not have a permanent address in the country can vote by mail, while temporary absentees need to submit their votes at embassies. This dual practice has been deemed discriminatory by all opposition parties. The European Court of Human Rights in 2015 as well as the Hungarian Constitutional Court ruled that it is not discriminatory to distinguish between absentee and non-resident voters.

In Magyar Idők, Anna Kulcsár dismisses allegations that the distinction between voters with and without permanent address in Hungary is discriminatory. Temporary absentees have the right to vote at embassies, or come home and vote in Hungary, or they can even cancel their address in Hungary and vote by mail while they are away, the pro-government columnist points out. Kulcsár thinks that the opposition is accusing the government of discrimination in order to increase its support among absentee voters.

Magyar Nemzet’s Szabolcs Szerető calls the dispute over absentee ballots somewhat absurd. The conservative commentator accuses the government of violating basic democratic norms by boycotting the extraordinary session, because he interprets the move as suggesting that the government wants to keep absentees away from the ballot box. Szerető adds, however, that the opposition’s plans to extend mail voting to absentees would be counterproductive. If absentees could vote by mail and turnout was higher, it would be more likely that the government’s referendum on EU migrant redistribution, scheduled for October 2, would reach the legal quorum of 50 per cent plus one vote.

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