Recently, the government submitted an amendment proposal to the election law, which generated outrage among opposition parties, as in their view they only serve to hinder the opposition’s chances in the next parliamentary election. Now it seems that they will further increase the number of individual candidates required for the national list as the pro-government majority in the parliamentary judiciary committee accepted a proposal by János Volner. According to this, parties running in the 2022 elections will have to nominate 71 candidates in the individual constituencies in at least 14 counties to compile a national list. The opposition parties suspect ruling Fidesz behind the independent MP’s proposal.
According to the amendment submitted by deputy PM Zsolt Semjén earlier this month only one minute before midnight, “a party may set up a party list only if it has nominated candidates in at least fifty single-member constituencies located in at least nine counties and the capital.” This would have almost doubled the minimum number from the original twenty-seven. The government said that the amendment is aimed at curbing abuses of campaign financing. The official reasoning behind the change is mainly the exclusion of fake parties, which were created before the last two elections, only with the aim to cash in on lucrative campaign subsidies. However, according to the opposition parties, the changes would only serve to hinder the opposition’s chances in the next parliamentary election.
However, the rule seems to become even stricter. Yesterday, the ruling parties supported the proposal of János Volner (former member of Jobbik, now an independent MP, who recently established a new party, the Volner party) in the Judiciary Committee, which states that there should be at least 71 candidates in a minimum of 14 counties (instead of the previous 50 and 9) for parties to field a national list in a general election. This is two-thirds of the individual electoral districts and two-thirds of the counties in the country, so it would make it even harder for smaller parties to field a national list, while of course making it almost impossible for fake parties to field a national list and gather the generous subsidies.
However, if Parliament also accepts Volner’s proposal, it would mean that opposition parties must not only coordinate individual nominations, but also make a common list, otherwise they have little to no chance for a national list. Under the new submitted rules, for example, in the 2018 election, opposition Momentum, which had existed for years, could barely run more individual MPs than the limit set in the proposal. At the same time, none of the left-wing parties (MSZP-Párbeszéd (Dialogue), DK, Együtt) would have reached the limit either, because back then they fielded separate lists, but coordinated the individual runs. As the governing party has a two-thirds majority in Parliament, it is most likely that the proposal will be accepted – thus, the parliamentary majority of Fidesz will decide on the strategy of the opposition parties by rewriting the electoral law.
Many claimed after the proposal that János Volner acted as Fidesz’s puppet after submitting the changes to the electoral law. However, the politician said that his proposal for the amendment is a logical one, and according to him, the opposition parties have no reason to branch out against him because now they can fully join forces like, he believes, they always planned. Volner justified the need for the change in order to repress fake parties. Volner said that only those with national support and organization can nominate candidates in 71 constituencies. However, he noted that even as a newly established party, they are not afraid of not being able to nominate candidates in all 106 individual constituencies. He said it did not often happen that an opposition proposal like his, was supported by the ruling parties. Volner added that the other half of the proposal, which they considered just as important – that a voter could only nominate one candidate and one list, thus multiple nominations would not be possible – was not supported by Fidesz.
According to news portal Azonnali’s information from opposition parties, this practically decided that the six-party opposition cooperation would definitely start one national list in 2022. Under Fidesz’s previous proposal to amend the electoral law, the opposition still had the chance to start on two lists mathematically, as there are 106 individual constituencies and the two lists would have reached the limit with 53-53 individual candidates. However, Volner’s proposal would make this impossible. However, according to Azonnali, a site partly owned by LMP MP Péter Ungár, several opposition politicians said that the point of the amendment is to actually put the parties on one joint list, and Fidesz would then be able to communicate more effectively that all parties participating in the coalition are in fact with former PM Ferenc Gyurcsány, who is an extremely dividing figure in Hungarian politics and even among opposition voters.
LMP: Volner is the front-man of Fidesz
László Lóránt Keresztes from LMP said that he “finds it extremely petty and deadly that the government side has asked its front-man, János Volner, to propose this amendment, and it is clear that this was not Volner’s idea, but he did so on the instructions of Fidesz.” He added that until now, the opposition have not decided on a strategy for 2022, because “there was a strong intention on the part of Jobbik and the LMP” of a chance to choose between the pre-2010 and post-2010 parties. However, according to Keresztes, this opportunity has now been lost.
Párbeszéd fears this is not the end of the changes
Olivio Kocsis-Cake, Párbeszéd MP, believes that “Fidesz is doing the dirty work with one of its phantom parties.” According to Kocsis-Cake, although it is a clear goal for the opposition to start on a common list, this should not have been achieved through an amendment to the electoral law, but by the opposition parties jointly deciding it should be so. The politician fears that changes in the electoral law will continue: “It may not even be the final version of the amendment, maybe next time [far-right] Mi Hazánk will throw in something at Fidesz’s request.” At the same time, according to him, it is not clear whether the one list favors the interests of Fidesz, because when talking to rural voters he sees more people who see the common list as the only chance for an opposition victory in 2022.
Democratic Coalition: Fidesz clearly behind Volner’s proposal
According to Attila Ara-Kovács, DK MEP, Fidesz is clearly behind Volner’s proposal. He said that “at the moment, they don’t seem to care about resolving anything in a democratic way or putting themselves in a privileged position. This is one part of the story, and on the other hand, it is very instructive from the opposition’s side, because it underscores even more that there is no other way to act against Fidesz.” He stressed that this will not affect DK’s election strategy for 2022.
Momentum: Orbán fears the 2022 elections
President Momentum András Fekete-Győr said that “Fidesz will not win a fair play award this year either. It is clear that Viktor Orbán is afraid of the turn of the era in 2022, and even in the midst of the biggest crisis, he is trying to do everything to stay in power. He will not.” On the question of whether Volner’s amendment proposal changes the strategy of Momentum, Fekete-Győr stated that in each case they will follow a strategy “with which Fidesz can be beaten to the greatest extent.”
Jobbik: Volner plays for Fidesz
Jobnik, Volner’s former party, mainly criticized their former member. It is as clear as day that Volner plays from Fidesz’s scorebook, they said, adding that “Obviously, the mandate thief will receive the fee for it from Fidesz. To fight a regime always requires courage, to serve it is cowardice!”
Mi Hazánk Movement: Amendement targets us
According to the Mi Hazánk Movement, the planned amendment to the electoral law serves it to make their party (the “third way”) impossible to field a list, said the party’s chairman, László Toroczkai. He said that although Fidesz expects that the party will not be able to nominate more than 50 individual candidates in the 2022 parliamentary elections, therfore losing the right to the national list, but he is “sending the message that we will be able to nominate individual candidates in not just 50, but all 106 constituencies,” and the party will become an unavoidable parliamentary political force in the 2022 election.
Hungarian Two-Tailed Dog Party: we will nominate candidates in 500 constituencies
At the same time, the situation of the Hungarian Two-Tailed Dog Party is becoming more difficult as well. The satirical party originally only wanted to nominate candidates in those constituencies where there is no realistic chance of an opposition victory. Gergely Kovács, the co-chair of the party, said that they can nominate candidates even up to 500 constituencies if they need to; however, according to him, the real problem with the proposal is that it will make the situation impossible for smaller parties who do not want to campaign jointly with either Viktor Orbán or Ferenc Gyurcsány.
featured photo: Lajos Soós/MTI