The National Election Committee (NVB) has dismissed a request to increase the number of places available for Hungarians living in the UK to cast their votes for the 2022 Hungarian general election. Even though there are officially more than 155,000 Hungarians living in the island country, they will still only be able to vote in two places.
The petition was submitted to the NVB by the “Hungarians in England for a change of government in 2022” Facebook community, asking the body to allow Hungarian voters living in the island country to cast their votes in more places than before during the Hungarian parliamentary elections due next spring.
There are officially more than 155,000 Hungarians living in the United Kingdom, but they can only go to the polls in London and Manchester, having to travel hundreds of kilometers and paying £50-100 in travel costs to cast a single vote, the petition notes.
In contrast, ethnic Hungarians living in neighboring countries who were granted citizenship shortly after Viktor Orbán took office in 2010, can cast their votes by post, even though they do not have a Hungarian address. To end the disparity and to make voting more convenient, the petitioners have called for establishing additional polling stations in Leeds, Liverpool, Birmingham, Edinburgh, Cardiff, Brighton, Bristol, Southampton, Exeter, Norwich, Nottingham, Cambridge, and Canterbury.
The NVB, however, refused to put the issue on the agenda by a vote of 8:5.
Elected members of the committee and two members delegated by the governing parties voted against the petition, while opposition delegates would have at least discussed it. The initiative was presented by András Litretits, a delegate of the opposition Socialist party (MSZP).
The Committee argued they had no legislative authority and new polling stations could only be established with the government’s approval, Litresits told daily Magyar Hang. According to the committee member, NVB could have, however, made a proposal to the Orbán cabinet on the issue, as it has been done before.
According to the petition’s official site, it has almost seven thousand signatories. Balázs Láng, one of the activists behind the initiative, told the paper that those rejecting the petition should be ashamed of themselves for “trying to force Hungarians living abroad into crowded queues during a pandemic,” and called on opposition parties to join their cause.
Magyar Hang also contacted the National Election Committee on the issue. In its response, the NVB stated that the Facebook community of Hungarians in England had not officially contacted them, but committee member András Litresits had submitted a proposal with the same content as the group’s petition. The National Election Committee indeed decided not to put this on their agenda, since they believe the issue is under the government’s jurisdiction.
FM Szijjártó: Conditions of vote by mail clearly outlined
The issue was also raised during Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó’s Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on Tuesday afternoon. The politician was asked whether the government plans to take steps to make it easier for Hungarians living in the UK to vote in more places, or to give Hungarians living abroad the opportunity to vote by mail in a similar way to ethnic Hungarians living in neighboring countries.
“Everyone has the opportunity to have their say on the future of Hungary. The details and conditions of voting by mail are clearly outlined,” Szijjártó said, implying that the government doesn’t plan to do anything about the problem.
Featured photo illustration by Balázs Mohai/MTI