Hungary’s New Electoral Law, Part 2: Analysis

Alan Renwick

In Part 1 of this post, I outlined the basics of Hungary’s new electoral law.  Now I turn to the question of what we should make of the changes introduced.

Before I get going, I should say that others have been following Hungary’s electoral reform debates over recent months and years more closely than I have.  I offer my impressions here partly because I know many non-Hungarian-speakers want to know more than they can at present about what has happened, and partly in the hope of initiating conversation with those in Hungary who know much more than I do.  I hope you will point out errors, omissions, and points that I ought to think about in more detail.

The key question in thinking about an electoral reform concerns whose interests it is designed to serve.  Is it imposed by the government to protect its own interests (what I have elsewhere called elite majority imposition)?  Is it agreed among politicians more widely (elite settlement)?  Or does it reflect pressure from below, which politicians feel compelled in greater or lesser measure to accommodate (elite–mass interaction)?

A quick look at the final parliamentary vote on the bill shows that this was not a case of elite settlement: the governing parties (the centre-right Fidesz and its Christian Democratic vassal, the KDNP) were united in support of the new electoral law, while the opposition parties were equally united against it.  One opposition party – the far-right Jobbik – voted against the bill.  The other two – the socialist MSZP and the green/liberal LMP – boycotted the session and headed instead for a demonstration outside parliament.

That’s not to say, however, that all aspects of the bill were contested.  The opposition parties all supported a sharp reduction in the number of deputies: as government supporters frequently pointed out during the main debate on the principles of the bill on 2nd December, Hungary’s parties have long promised a reduction in the size of Parliament without delivering.  There was also general agreement on the introduction of special representation for minorities.  Four of the five parliamentary parties – all except the LMP – supported the shift to single-round elections in the single-member districts.  And all agreed that, if single-member districts were to be retained, there was an urgent need to redraw constituency boundaries.  No redistricting had taken place since 1990, with the result that the largest districts were three times the size of the smallest.  The Constitutional Court had ruled in December 2010 that the prevailing district structure was unconstitutional.

Nevertheless, two aspects of the bill appear designed to serve Fidesz’s own party interests.  The first is that the new system is more majoritarian than the old.  As I noted in Part 1 of this post, that is partly because the proportion of single-member districts (SMDs) is greater than in the old system and partly because winners’ surplus votes are now included in the transfer of remainder votes from SMDs to lists.  One estimate, which seems to be widely accepted, is that, whereas the old system translated Fidesz’s 53 per cent vote share in 2010 into a 68 per cent share of the seats in Parliament, the new system would have given it 76 per cent of the seats.

Fidesz justifies this move in two ways (I’m drawing again here and in the next few paragraphs on the parliamentary debates on 2nd December).  First, in terms of the mechanics of the new system, it argues that including winners’ surplus votes in the transfer ensures that all “wasted” votes from the SMDs are treated equally.  Fidesz’s Lajos Kósa said:

The goal of the new method of counting remainder votes is that no vote should be lost – that every citizen’s vote should count.  The bill thus treats all votes that are not used in the single-member districts equally.  Only some of the votes cast in single-member districts are needed to win a seat.  The bill’s goal is that every vote should be used: those cast for losing candidates in the same way as those cast for the winner that were not needed to obtain the seat.

This part of the bill was ridiculed by opposition deputies: the MSZP’s Zsolt Molnár, for example, likened it to giving social security benefits to bank directors.  And, indeed, the government’s reasoning is very strange.  If the equality of votes is an aim, that surely needs to be gauged across the outcome of the election as a whole: few voters pay much attention to how their votes are treated at particular stages of the count process.  And in terms of the outcome of the election, the new system manifestly treats votes more unequally than the old: disproportionality, as already noted, is markedly higher.

Of course, disproportionality can be justified if it produces more effective or more accountable government.  And this is Fidesz’s second argument.  Lajos Kósa continued:

The question of proportionality and governability is a key question for every electoral system.  In considering it, we must recognize that each of these values can be realized only at the expense of the other.  Increased proportionality endangers the formation of a governing majority, while realization of the majoritarian perspective reduces proportionality. … I believe that the bill offers an appropriate solution to this.

But none of Fidesz’s speakers explained why governability requires even greater disproportionality than already exists in Hungary.  Every parliament in Hungary over the last twenty years has lasted its full four-year term.  No election has been followed by problems in government formation.  Voters have been able to throw out the existing government and replace it with a wholly new coalition in four out of the five elections since the first post-communist election in 1990.  As the far right’s Dóra Dúró said in Parliament on 2nd December, “Election results have not caused problems for governability in Hungary, whereas proportionality – or, rather, disproportionality – has been much more of a problem”.

Fidesz points out that some European countries have entirely majoritarian systems, and if these are classed as democratic then, a fortiori, so too must be a system that combines majoritarian and proportional elements.  But this argument is again tendentious.  The UK – the example most commonly cited – has relatively entrenched parties that retain stable bastions of support even in lean times.  As a result, no government has commanded two-thirds of the seats in the House of Commons since 1945 – never mind the three-quarters share that Fidesz could have won under the new Hungarian rules in 2010.  By contrast, the parties’ weaker entrenchment and the greater homogeneity in voting patterns in Hungary mean that a popular party can virtually sweep the board in the SMDs: Fidesz won all but two SMDs under the old rules in 2010; the MSZP and their allies won all but ten in 1994.

In Hungary’s circumstances, therefore, a pure SMD system would be wholly indefensible: it could at some elections prevent the existence of any meaningful parliamentary opposition.  The new mixed system also risks leaving Hungary without adequate checks against majority power.  No justification has been offered for why that might be needed.

The second highly contentious aspect of the system that seems designed to serve Fidesz’s interests is the new structure of single-member districts.  Article 4 of the new electoral law states that SMDs must not cross county boundaries, must comprise contiguous territory, and must contain roughly equal numbers of eligible voters.  It goes on to state that district electorates should deviate by no more than 15 per cent from the average (unless that is necessary to respect county boundaries and maintain contiguity) and that Parliament must act if any deviation rises above 20 per cent.  An annex to the bill then sets out each district in precise detail.

The general principles set out in the bill are perfectly reasonable.  As government speakers repeatedly pointed out during the parliamentary debate, they conform to the principles laid down by the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission in its Code of Good Practice in Electoral Matters.

What none of those speakers cared to point out, however, is that the Code of Good Practice goes on also to suggest procedures for drawing up precise boundaries.  It says:

When constituency boundaries are redefined – which they must be in a
single-member system – it must be done:

  • impartially;
  • without detriment to national minorities;
  • taking account of the opinion of a committee, the majority of whose members are independent; this committee should preferably include a geographer, a sociologist and a balanced representation of the parties and, if necessary, representatives of national minorities.

The third of these points has not been followed: there is no information at all on how the government has drawn the map described in the new law.  Furthermore, it appears that the first principle has been violated too.  During the parliamentary debates, the LMP’s Gergely Karácsony showed two graphs: you can watch the clip here and see the graphs here.  The first graph plots Fidesz’s share of the votes in 2010 in the new SMDs on the y-axis against each SMD’s population on the x-axis.  It shows that the districts are smaller where Fidesz’s vote is higher, suggesting that the boundaries have been manipulated to Fidesz’s advantage.  Interestingly, the second graph (obtainable by clicking on the arrow to the right of the first graph), which plots the same data using the old SMDs, suggests that, although variation in district size was much greater under the old system, the bias against Fidesz was smaller than the bias in Fidesz’s favour that has now been introduced.

I have not been able to verify these figures – which do, of course, come from one of the opposition parties.  Nevertheless, they fit closely with others: analysts writing on the Haza és Haladás blog find, simulating 2006 election data with the new SMDs, that the average number of voters in districts where Fidesz were ahead by more than 5 per cent is 74,639, while that in districts where the MSZP were ahead by the same amount is 80,428.  They find evidence of various other boundary manipulations in Fidesz’s favour and conclude, largely on this basis, that “this is not a democratic electoral system”.

To draw up district boundaries in a non-transparent and partisan way is a gross abuse of democratic principle.  Fidesz will probably get away with it: such abuses are common in several other SMD-based systems, and Hungarian politicians have a depressing tendency to compare Hungarian practice with what happens elsewhere rather than with what should happen.  But we should be clear all the same that Fidesz is skewing the system to its own advantage.  Furthermore, by placing the district boundaries in the electoral law – a law that can be changed only with a two-thirds parliamentary majority – it is seeking to entrench its unfair advantage for the future.

Overall, then, this is basically a case of reform by elite majority imposition: the government has designed an electoral law that will serve its own power interests against the opposition of all parties outside government and with little real involvement from the wider public.  Everyone agreed that an overhaul of the electoral system was necessary, but the government has used this opportunity ruthlessly for its own purposes.

The only possible qualification to this picture concerns the reduction in the size of Parliament from 386 to 199 members: why would Fidesz deputies back such a change if they were thinking only of their own electoral interests?

I look forward to hearing others’ thoughts on this.  One point may be that the unanimous support for the bill from the government benches shows how far Fidesz is controlled by its leadership.  But is there also a concession here to public opinion?  In other countries, including the UK and Ireland, reductions in the number of deputies in the past year have been justified on the basis that, when public services are being cut sharply, politicians should feel the pinch too.  The same reasoning was expressed in the Hungarian Parliament on 2nd December: Fidesz’s Gergely Gulyás, for example, said, “At a time when the country’s difficult economic situation demands sacrifices from numerous parts of society, it is particularly justified and rational for Parliament to set a good example”.  More often, however, Fidesz deputies simply pointed out that parliamentary downsizing has been promised for twenty years but never achieved.  This justification appeals to a populist discourse according to which Fidesz is the party that can slice through the lethargy of a corrupt and self-serving elite to act in the interests of the ordinary people of Hungary.

In this respect then, Fidesz is pandering to popular distaste for politicians.  But it is doing so in a way that does the party’s leadership no harm.  To use the language introduced by political scientists Steven Reed and Michael Thies, act- as well as outcome-contingent considerations matter here.  In all respects, however, it appears that the government has worked out what will serve its own power interests and has taken as much of this as it thinks itself able to get away with.

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28 Responses to Hungary’s New Electoral Law, Part 2: Analysis

  1. Alan, this is very valuable. Thank you.

    You ask, about the reduction in size of parliament, “why would Fidesz deputies back such a change if they were thinking only of their own electoral interests?” I am not sure I understand the puzzle here. A smaller parliament, all else equal, produces less proportional results (Taagepera, various, including his 2007 book). So this fits well with the party’s overall move towards greater majoritarianism. (Interestingly, the reduction brings Hungary close to the “cube root rule” of assembly size–Taagepera and Shugart, 1989. The old one was one of the most over-sized, relative to population, in the world.)

    Another question: Regarding the boundary delimitation process, you comment that “abuses are common in several other SMD-based systems”. Other than most US states and non-democratic Malaysia, where else do we find such gross abuses of this process as what you detail in the new Hungarian law?

    • Alan Renwick says:

      Many thanks, Matt. The puzzle from my point of view regarding the reduction in the number of deputies concerns why the deputies themselves would accept this, given that many of them will lose their jobs as a result. I agree with your point about proportionality, but I might expect the party leaders to have an interest also in not antagonizing their members unnecessarily. The ease with which the government was able to do this might just reflect the dominance of the party leadership over the rank and file. It should be said that the reduction in the size of Parliament was already foreshadowed by a constitutional amendment passed in May 2010, just after the Fidesz government entered office, which set the maximum size of Parliament at 200.

      Regarding boundary delimitation, I was thinking also of France, where the 2010 redistribution (like the previous redistribution in 1987) seems to have been strongly politicized. If France had a formalized mechanism for regular, independent boundary review, I think it would be far harder for the Hungarian government to justify what it has just done.

      • Tibor Glant says:

        Reduction of the size of the political elite was one of the major campaign promises of Fidesz. Like with some others, they did come good on this promise. This was one of the reasons why many gave them 2/3: we believed that they would do it, unlike all other parliaments before.

  2. Liz DB says:

    Yes, thanks Alan, this is very useful.

    I completely agree that it is a puzzle why Fidesz would wish to reduce the number of MPs. I wonder if it isn’t just about improved control over the party. I’m not sure what Fidesz’s candidate selection procedures are like, but I presume it’s pretty essential to promise loyalty in order to get nominated or be put on the party list.

    Aren’t they also changing the incompatibility laws, too, so that you can’t be a mayor and an MP simultaneously? I’m not sure what motivates that – although can imagine it might fall disproportionately on different parties – but it might as a consequence mean there are fewer loyal MPs to go around. It might also change the ease of access to political power for parties of different sizes.

    How would you expect Jobbik to fare under the new system, and does that tell us anything about Fidesz’s real attitude to them?

    • Alan Renwick says:

      Many thanks, Liz. Yes, there has certainly been a lot of talk about stopping people from being mayor and MP simultaneously. I can’t see anything saying that this has happened yet, but it would be interesting to find out more about it.

      The Haza és Haladás simulation suggests that Jobbik would have won 9 per cent of the seats in 2010 under the new rules, compared to 12 per cent under the old rules. Both Jobbik and the MSZP are now a bit higher in the polls than they were at the election, but they would still both presumably struggle to win in many SMDs. Jobbik and the MSZP have both been arguing for a German-style MMP system.

    • They want to reduce the number of MPs because it is their populist (and to be honest partially legitimate) answer to the electoral dissatisfaction with the post-transitional status quo. The anti-political, anti-elitistic sentiment of those Hungarians who are dissatisfied with the way how things are going, were going in our country.

      It was accepted by all parties even during previous electoral terms that the number of MPs should be limited, but there was no two third majority in the Parliament to have a succesfull vote on any possible reform and reduction.

      They now introduce new incompatibility laws too, a mayor cannot be an MP anymore (after the next elections). This is more important than the reduction, because during the last 20 years succesful lobbying of mayors was able to stop crucial reforms.

    • About Jobbik.

      Fidesz is afraid of a strong far right in Hungary. Mainly not because of their ideas but of their capability to attract volatile voters on the right.

      Because of this in 2010 Fidesz partially reformed the municipal electoral system to institutionally limit the success of Jobbik during the Autumn on the municipal elections.

      Jobbik has good grassroots so the collection of qualification card will not be a problem for them. Until Jobbik does not become either the biggest or an above 30 percent second biggest party of the Hungarian political system they will be disprefered by this new system. Because the “winner’s compensation” system decreases the influence of their proportional votes (because the winning candidates will also create votes for the system of compensation and these votes will compete against the party list votes for the mandates on the national list).

      Here is our paper in English, and on the 13th page you can find the explanation of this:

      Jobbik is the second most popular party in the rural areas and some former socialist cities, especially on the poorer North-Eastern part of our country. I belive that there are still some electoral limits of Jobbik’s success, and centrist-volatile voters would rather stay away from elections than vote for them, so because of this Jobbik in the future might become capable to win some single electoral districts (on the North-Easter part of Hungary) in tight races against Fidesz but on the Western part in Transdanubia even in the rural areas it would be hard for them to win seats. And the proportional arm of system with its 93 seats disprefers Jobbik until they do not rise above 30 percent.

      • Tibor Glant says:

        With due respect, Jobbik took over from MSZP in areas where people would not vote for Fidesz under any circumstances. Now they would not vote for MSZP either. Again, quality of government. Fidesz needs both MSZP and Jobbik as deterrents to middle-of-the-spectrum voters.

  3. Yes, I would say that this is a very disciplined party, in which the deputies are the agents, not the principals, of the leadership.

    Such a party surely will take care somehow of its MPs who might lose seats as a result of the reduction in parliament. It would be interesting to follow up after the next election and see what jobs former MPs who are not renominated end up with.

    It should be noted that there are probably not many examples of such large reductions in assembly size in history. Other very large reductions came at the fall of the USSR, for example. Communist parliaments tend to be oversized, and in fact Hungary’s oversized parliament up till now is itself a vestige of the communist era. The only surprise is that it took so long to bring it back in line with the cube root rule.

    (The UK might now be the most oversized, in terms of deviation from the cube root rule of assembly size.)

  4. Removing the incompatibility may be a clue: will many former MPs now become mayors?

    Is the job of mayor at all attractive? I would tend to doubt it, because Hungary is quite centralized (isn’t it?). But this would open up more political jobs to go around…

    • No they cannot become because Fidesz won with a landslide in the Autumn of 2010 on the municipal elections. So there will be lot of former MPs who will have to find positions in the powerless county municipalities of fight with local (and incumbent) mayors for new candidacies. But Fidesz used to be capable to manage this internal disputes, and many MPs after the landslide of 2010 were aware of the fact that this is their first and last term in the Parliament.

      And you are right? Under this government the country became more centralised so the job of mayors will not be that powerfull.

  5. Also, thanks for the mention of France. I did not know it had a non-independent redistricting process.

  6. Gabor Toka says:

    Dear Alan,
    many thanks for your posts indeed. In the vain hope that this may benefit other readers, let me repeat here some points that we already emailed about.

    The reduction of the size of parliament was indeed supported by a widespread popular mood and (consequently) an inter-party consensus. The 199 figure is also broadly in line with Taagepera’s fornula for assembly size (see But by achieving this figure in the context of a predominantly majoritarian system, Fidesz created major obstacles to the effective participation in the work of parliament even by parties with as much as 10 percent of the popular vote. With possibly as few as 5-7 seats each, their opportunities to participate in committees will be hugely limited. Even if each of their deputies obtains multiple assignments, what will they do if two their committees meet at the same time (which, with the current government setting rules of conduct, would presumably be the rule rather than the exception)?

    I am also concerned about the special arrangement for minority representation. As it is, I think this is only good to provide a further tool for corruption in – and executive dominance of – the legislature, as well as to cultivate a culture of ethnocentrism in public life and political culture. Romania’s experience with a similarly non-sensical system of minority representation (where the only politically relevant minority, the Hungarian, gets represented through the normal mechanisms of PR, and such ethnographic curiosities as the Italian, Albanian, “Lipovan Russian”, Turkish, Tatar, Polish etc. minorities of Romania get 17 seats under the special rules for minority representation – see shows that these deputies nearly always find themselves voting with the government of the day (in the current parliament for 96-97% of the time, according a quick and partial check that I just made on the parliament’s website). I imagine that these people, typically elected with a few thousand votes and formally only associated with organizations like the “Democratic Union of Turkish-Muslim Tartars in Romania” may also be quite dependent on powerful donors in their campaigns, and possibly also in their recruitment in the first place. Which of course does not prevent them from becoming, say, vice-char of the legislative committee on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men (currently held by a deputy from the “Cultural Union of Rutens in Romania”). In other words, the cheapest way to become a legislator in Romania is to run under the banner of some fanciful minority that you invented and then get a few thousand people vote for you.

    As far as I can recall, no Hungarian party ever dared to speak out against the ethnocentric and completely impractical constitutional requirement, enshrined in 1989, to add such representatives to the Hungarian parliament. (That there has not been any such representative in Hungary as yet is down to the fact that the previous parliaments never managed to set rules for the election of these minority representatives, i.e. remained in violation of the constitution for 20 years.) Yet the size and political significance of ethnic minorities in Hungary hardly justified retaining this rule in the 2011 reform, except possibly in the case of the Roma, who are so numerous and so divided politically that awarding them a single “Roma” seat in parliament will do no justice to their fair representation. The whole idea of adding such specially designated minority representatives to parliament has only ever been meant to provide some further arguments for Hungarian foreign policy asking for similar privileges for the Hungarian minority in neighboring countries and in defending itself from charges of nationalism. But even if you share those concerns, you will notice that Hungarian ethnic parties regularly obtain parliamentary seats in all neighboring countries without any special arrangements everywhere where ethnic Hungarians live in significant numbers. So I imagine that Fidesz’ only remaining reason not to drop the requirement for a privileged representation of ethnic minorities in the Hungarian parliament was that they see quite precisely how useful this arrangement will be to further reduce the number of list seats awarded to smaller opposition parties and to provide some extra votes for the government of the day.

    By the way, Kim Lane Scheppele has a new posting at and raises an interesting point re districting: “I know of no other system [than the new Hungarian] that allows an incumbent party to embed the specific boundaries of districts in a law that requires a 2/3rds vote for alteration and that has no independent body to determine whether the electoral districts have been fairly drawn in the first place.” I do not know such example myself either (DOES ANY READER DO, BY ANY CHANCE?), but, as a devil’s advocate, I was wondering whether a partisan of the Hungarian government could legitimately counter that in the American legal tradition partisan and pro-incumbent gerrymandering are in fact accepted by the courts (I am not sure whether that is the case in every state or just some), and by prohibiting non-contiguous districts the Hungarian system actually goes further in preventing such gerrymandering than US state laws (while the Hungarian law has admittedly a much-much greater tolerance for inequalities in voting age population between districts, even within counties)?

    Happy New Year,

    • Alan Renwick says:

      Many thanks for this, Gábor – and sorry that I’ve only just noticed it!

      What you say about absolute numbers of MPs for smaller parties is very interesting – it’s an aspect of the change that I hadn’t really thought about, but you are clearly right.

      On the representation of national minorities, my suspicion was that the government was gathering ammunition for foreign policy purposes, so I’m glad to see you mention this. During the parliamentary debate on 2nd December, Fidesz’s Gergely Gulyás said “From the perspective of Hungary’s national political interests, it is particular justified that the national minorities living here should have an enhanced position and that they should be subject to positive discrimination” – which sounds to me more or less like an admission of this point. We’ll see to what degree the minority reps may be manipulable in the future.

      I agree that there are other examples of really unjustifiable districting around the democratic world. As I mentioned in the post, I find it exasperating that Hungarian politicians constantly refer to what happens or doesn’t happen elsewhere in the world in order to justify their position – when what happens elsewhere is indefensible, using it in this way really shouldn’t be allowed!

    • Phil Sage says:

      Gabor – “I know of no other system [than the new Hungarian] that allows an incumbent party to embed the specific boundaries of districts in a law that requires a 2/3rds vote for alteration and that has no independent body to determine whether the electoral districts have been fairly drawn in the first place.”

      The US senatorial system

  7. Tibor Glant says:

    Alan, very nice and balanced analysis, easily the most fair and intelligent of all that I have come across in English. I have a few minor additions only: (1) we did have a census in 2011 which is the basis for redistricting as is the county system. (2) Haza és Haladás is the blog of Gordon Bajnai and Mr. Szigetvári above, one defeated premier, one campaign chief, so I would be careful with their analysis. What I do not get here is (3) how could they extrapolate the 2010 results onto the new law? 176 to 106 SMDs, 386 to 199, with possible minority representatives, and the party list votes of the Hungarians who are willing to vote and who live outside of Hungary? How can they claim that HUs outside of Hu would all vote for Fidesz? The law is now up and available from Magyar Közlöny. (4) Fidesz are also reducing the number of municipal governments, so incompatibility or not, many of them will lose lucrative jobs. As for MSZP-SZDSZ complaiing about the Fidesz victory, it was self-imposed both by style of government and two sets of austerity measures within 3 years (2006 and 2009).

    • Alan Renwick says:

      Many thanks for these comments, Tibor. Yes, I realize that the impartiality of the Haza és Haladás blog might be questioned. I felt I could use it because I haven’t seen anyone – including anyone from Fidesz – offer any evidence to suggest that their figures might be incorrect. The comments of various Fidesz speakers in the 2nd December parliamentary debate suggested that they accepted the numbers. But do let me know if I’ve missed any alternative analyses: it’d be really interested to see it. My understanding is that the Haza és Haladás analysts have used voting data from the many thousands of polling districts, which allows them to get at least quite close to the votes cast in 2010 in the boundaries of the new districts.

      • Phil Sage says:

        Alan/Tibor – The Haza és Haladás blog analysis is fundamentally flawed. It refers only to valid votes. The correct comparison is electors. Here in the UK a south england vote is worth much less than in a northern england electorate because of turnout, let alone the larger size of the constituencies

        • why would that modify the finaly result in the model?

          • Tibor Glant says:

            Viktor: The fundamental flaw in your model lies in the attempt to project two-step election results onto a single-step election law which has not even been tested yet, and in also your unwillingness to factor in MSZP-SZDSZ cooperation. It would carry more authority if it did not come from the PM and campaign manager of a party thrashed by popular vote in a free election. Elegant and elegantly written in English, but wistfully manipulative IMO.

    • re 3.: we did not count at all with all the minority representatives (maximum the roma population will get one seat), and the votes of Hungarians without permanent residence in Hungary – we do not even know yet the number of these citizens, the all must be registered. But 500 000 votes from them (and this would be much more than we can foresee) would change less than 5 proportional seats given the fact that the proportional votes will be combined with the loser’s compensation. Plus in our model we stated that we did not take into account this system of non-Hungarian residents. In the end it will have a very limited effect on any electoral outcome.

  8. Tibor Glant says:

    Here is a Nézőpont review: As regards H&H, a Bush-Rove blog on Obama would not convince me. I am under the impression that Bajnai is being built up as a challenger for 2014, and the blog is dangerously, intelligently manipulative. Scheppele is clearly connected, and some of her statements in the NYT are atrocious. Whatever way you look at it, MSZP had the living daylight beaten out of them by the electorate. This election law will be better than the previous one.

    What nobody has raised so far is what I see as the two biggest discrepancies in the old system: (1) 1990 districts totally disregarding population movement and (2) defeated candidates still making it to the Parliament and deciding about people who specifically said, “NOT you”. You could run in an individual district and lose and still make it from the party list. Nagy Sándor, MSZP, 3 times out of 3 elections in my district in Debrecen.

    Envelopes were also used in large-scale cheating by MSZP in 2006, and when some promises were unfulfilled, one of them went public with the method. A Fidesz modifier to the law asking for the repeal of the envelope system was defeated by MSZP-SZDSZ. Nails in the coffin.

    I am less worried about redistricting than Mr. Szigetvári, as this is NOT a winner-take-all system, but there is large-scale compensation. I fully agree with you that compensating the winner is weird, but it does open doors for any party winning an election. H&H should be explaining why they would stand no chance even today, with the HUF at 320 to the Euro. I posted on some of these things on facebook, and there is an excellent PEW survey from 2009 on post-communist countries and democracy.

    Again, congrats, this blog was a relief to read, with no political agenda, and thoughtful analysis. I was beginning to lose faith that I could read anything like this in English anymore.

    • There were no electoral cheating in 2006 at all. Do you have any legal evidence for this statement?

      • Tibor Glant says:

        Only confession on video, as you, as campaign manager, certainly know. Envelopes, investigation blocked by “independent” (=MSZP-SZDSZ controlled) Országos Választási Bizottság. Viktor, excuse me but this is not a campaign but an analytical blog, and the very fact that you and Haza és Haladás are posing as “independent” is already misleading readers. Having said that, you scored a major media and campaign success with this analysis, but with Bajnai stepping up as a supposed alternative to the elected government of Hungary, the whole thing smells foul. It is like Ms Scheppele analyzing over 4000 pages of legislation in a week but the EU commission still reading one out of 30+ laws before passing judgment.

        Let us not destroy this blog, as later on, when you may be back in power, you might need an impartial analyst, when Orbán and co. pull a H&H on you. I would be willing to discuss party rhetoric in private. Here, however, we are trying to discuss actual concerns, such as the ones I have raised above. Best, GT

  9. Tibor Glant says:

    Electoral cheating in 2002, on request: Was repeated in 2006, Fidesz proposal to remove envelopes rejected by MSZP-SZDSZ: and continue search from here.

  10. A new set of calculations came out. The author(s) take issue with the Haha analysis, using their raw numbers but applying different assumptions. There is lively debate, too, in the comments section, alas, all in Hungarian.
    The (pseudonymous) post is in the right wing, pro-government but not uncritical blog “Mandiner”.

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