Hungarians go to the polls this Sunday to elect a new parliament under new rules introduced by the current government and passed by the governing two thirds majority in parliament - rules that are considered by experts to produce more disproportionate results.
The Sunday will be the first election according to the new Basic Law of Hungary, which went into force on January 1, 2012, replacing the country’s constitution, held under the new electoral law effective that day. For the first time since Hungary’s transition to a multi-party democracy, the election will have a single round and 199 Members of Parliament will be elected instead of the current 386 lawmakers.
The new electoral law was passed on December 23, 2011 by the two-thirds majority Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz party gained in parliament at the 2010 elections. Most of the opposition parties stayed away from the vote in protest of the fact that they had not been consulted about a law of such wide scope.
The new rules shift the election system towards the majoritarian principle, thereby threatening that future election results will be even more disproportionate when comparing mandate proportions in Parliament to proportions of votes cast for party lists. They prescribe a one-round system instead of the previous two rounds.
There is no minimal turnout necessary (formerly 50% was needed for the first round and 25% for the second). With only 199 seats up for grabs, the number of individual constituencies is decreased from 176 to 106. The remaining 93 seats are distributed as party-list seats, including minority-list seats. Chances are that the German and Romani minorities are likely to have MPs, with the other 13 minorities having a minority spokesman allowed to speak in Parliament but not entitled to vote.
The 5% threshold still exists in case of party-list (10% in case of a two party joint list, 15% in case of a three or more party joint list). The suffrage, for the first time, is extended to Hungarian citizens who do not have a permanent residence in Hungary. However, they are only entitled to cast their ballots for Hungarian party lists and not in single-member constituencies.
Perhaps, the most sensitive issue that – analysts say – could easily give rise to fraud is that hundreds of thousands of people with no residence in Hungary (usually, ethnic Hungarians who were given Hungarian citizenship in the past year or two and thus, the right to vote at the Hungarian elections) are allowed to cast their vote by mail – an opportunity not given to Hungarians working abroad.