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Hungary: A Long Election Day

The first round of the parliamentary elections in Hungary took place on April 11. Fidesz, a center-right party, won over 50 percent of the vote, securing 206 of 386 seats in parliament; the Hungarian Socialist Party claimed 28 seats; Jobbik, a far-right party, made significant gains, winning 26 seats. The second round of the election, in which the fate of the remaining 121 seats will be decided, is scheduled for April 25.

Voter turnout in this election was 64.36 percent; in some areas, voters had to wait hours before they could cast their ballots. U.S.-based Eva S. Balogh of Hungarian Spectrum reported on the night of the vote:

Well, I thought that I would be able to give definitive news on the results of the Hungarian elections by 2 p.m. EST, but there was quite a bit of delay thanks to last-minute voters in certain electoral districts. I still have no idea exactly what happened, but just before the polls were scheduled to close at 7 p.m. in Hungary long lines developed. Naturally, conspiracy theories abound. […]

The problem was that the lines were so long that they were unable to vote for hours after the polls should have closed, and the National Election Committee decided to extend the campaign silence until all of the stragglers voted. The media's election coverage was shut down, and the only thing reporters and their high-level guests could talk about was the decision of the National Election Committee. Eventually, when about 99% of the ballots had been counted, the Committee decided to lift the campaign silence. […]

Index.hu reported (HUN) that the long queues were the result of a law modification initiated by prime minister Gordon Bajnai in 2007, when he was Minister for Municipalities and Regional Development. The new, stricter regulation generated higher numbers of participants in some big cities’ electoral districts, because those who wanted to vote in other places than their assigned electoral district could actually vote anywhere by showing a document of verification. This is why the more popular electoral districts had to cope with a new problem: they didn't have enough space and time to guarantee that everyone could vote there before the polls closed at 7 PM. According to a report (HUN), the last voter waited for his turn until 1:15 AM.

On the night of the vote, the public television aired live (HUN) some parts of the National Election Committee's assembly, interrupting it with some comments and live reports from electoral districts where there were still hundreds of people waiting. A reporter from Bocskay Road announced that he met a Czech TV crew, and this soon became a trending topic on Twitter (HUN), quoting the host, Gergő Süveges (HUN) at the TV channel's studio, who said that even the colleagues from the Czech Republic could make it to Hungary sooner than the Hungarian National Election Committee arrived to the point of making a decision on releasing the results after several hours of discussion. This comment quickly turned the host, an ordinary public TV journalist, into a popular media person.

A few mock Facebook groups were promptly created. One, for instance, was named after the National Election Committee (HUN), while another had this title: This group will sooner have 10,000 members than the election results (HUN).

Tomi of Gombapresszó was not among those who had to wait to cast a vote, but this election day was quite memorable for him still: he was there not only to vote himself, but also to document his daughter's first voting experience (HUN):

I could say that I remember the day when I was a first-time voter, but except for some blurry details (walking down Lenin Road with my father who had had a suit on), it's only the feeling that has remained […]. I was very proud of myself. Even the fact that communists organized the event didn't upset me, though they were well-known for not being the popes of multiple choice. But I didn't realize it then that I had only been invited to be a “voting gentleman.”

Yesterday's election was a real one, and my daughter Liza got a remembrance certificate about it.

It was impossible to find any sign of pride on her, though I tried to rake up this feeling in her […]. Anyway, I recorded the event – in case she wants to remember the day, she has the help. […]

By midnight, when everybody was aware of the almost fully processed results, Eva S. Balogh posted this comment on the outcome of the first round:

[…] The results were not terribly surprising: Fidesz won with 52.77% after the first round, which translates into 206 seats out of a total of 386. So Fidesz has achieved an absolute majority. Whether the party will receive the much desired two-thirds majority is still undecided and uncertain. We will know the answer in two weeks after the second round of voting when there will be a runoff in all districts where no candidate received more than 50% of the votes.

MSZP ended up second with 19.29% of the votes followed by Jobbik with 16.71%. Pretty devastating. LMP‘s showing was surprisingly strong: 7.42%. Unfortunately MDF didn't get into parliament. Ibolya Dávid, chairman of the party, promptly resigned. I think that MDF‘s involvement with the remnant of SZDSZ was a serious mistake. I'm really sorry about the failure of MDF because I think that Hungary badly needs a genuinely conservative party.[…]

Gábor Török, a political analyst whose blog (HUN) became famous among netizens when the campaign started, attended the mentioned public TV live broadcast and after arriving home he published a post (HUN) with a fast analysis:

[…] General picture: The election of 2010 brought a remarkable change in the Hungarian party system: the previous iffy two-party system trembled and fell apart. Fidesz-KDNP won with the highest rate of votes since 1990, on the opposition side arose two mid-parties and one surprisingly strong small one. In addition to that, concerning first round participation of voters (64,3%), it was similar to the three (1990, 1994, 2006) previous elections, but after 1998 the second lowest – though higher than anticipated. […]

1 comment

  • Joe Simon

    This election in Hungary was historic. The post-communist
    party finally fell. The most important task now facing
    the country is to neutralize extremists, whether from the
    right or left. The FIDESZ is in the best position to accomplish this task. The alleged plagiarism of Orban is
    really a non-issue. It is rather amusing to read about it here. Why should Eva S. Balogh waste ink on this nonsense.
    Joe Simon, Ottawa, Canada

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