Hungarian Press Roundup: Row over Electoral Law Amendments
A pro-government columnist finds opposition criticism of the amendments proposed to the electoral law groundless and even absurd, arguing that the proposal targeting tiny pseudo-parties. A liberal commentator agrees that the proposed changes are not all unfavourable for the opposition, but nonetheless deems it problematic that the government tables such important policy reforms under the coronavirus emergency.
Background information: The government’s proposed amendments to the electoral law stipulate that in order to create national lists, parties need to field candidates in at least 50 of the 106 individual constituencies. At present, they are required to have candidates in only 27 districts. The proposed amendments would also allow taking photos of the ballots in the booths for ‘personal’ purposes.
Government politicians argue that the changes proposed make it more difficult for tiny pseudo-parties to run in the election with the sole aim of receiving public campaign funding. The lifting of the ban on taking photos of the ballots is explained by EU regulations that allow individuals to disclose their votes if they so wish. Opposition parties have called on the government to withdraw the bill as they believe that it will weaken democracy. The opposition also complained that such important amendments were tabled after the introduction of the coronavirus emergency rules, which preclude the organisation of demonstrations or the collection of signatures to protest.
On 444, Péter Magyar finds it disturbing that the government tabled the amendments after the introduction of the state of emergency, but does not believe that the proposed changes to the electoral law, in their current shape, would harm the interest of the opposition. After all, the opposition has already been planning to run jointly, or at least in a coordinated fashion, the liberal commentator notes. The government’s proposal will upend the intra-opposition disputes and compel them to run on one or two party lists, he suggests. Magyar, however, fears that the government may introduce new amendments to the electoral law before the 2022 election, if their interests dictate such a move.
Magyar Nemzet’s Zsolt Bayer recalls that the opposition used to accuse government of having introduced the current rules to incentivize small fake parties to run and take votes from the opposition. Now that the regulations are to be revised and fake parties are targeted, the opposition is unhappy again, the pro-government pundit writes. Most opposition parties have already been advocating running on a single opposition party list to challenge Fidesz, he notes. In light of all this, Bayer sees the opposition’s criticism of the proposed amendments as absurd and groundless.