The opposition will address the Constitutional Court (AB) and the National Elections Office (NVI) regarding the amendment that csuspends the definition of residence, initiated by the Fidesz government. The opposition argues that this paves the way for voter fraud and other abuses, which has occurred in the past.
As noted earlier, a recently adopted amendment changes the legal definition of “residence”. Thus, in the future, a person who establishes a new one will not have to live at this address. Residences will be reduced primarily to contact addresses, with only a presumption of residence.
In addition, the article of the penal code on the falsification of public documents has also been amended, so that anyone can write an address on a document. [private] property with the owner’s consent, or on an owner’s property, without criminal penalties – even if it is obvious from the start that they do not live there.
New amendment makes fictitious addresses legal, warns NGO
According to the official explanatory memorandum of the law, the amendment is a regulatory response to the social phenomenon. According to opposition politicians, Fidesz has just legalized another form of electoral fraud.
Opposition: Election in danger
According to the common opposition, including the six parties and the Hungary for All movement of PM candidate Péter Márki-Zay, this amendment carries the danger of the phenomenon where dozens of Hungarian citizens not actually living in Hungary are registered on a property ( already experienced in 2018), becoming a mass phenomenon in the next elections.
On the other hand, it would allow “voters to change their registration between single-member constituencies whose outcome is uncertain before next year’s elections.” The election can be swayed both ways, they say.
Therefore, they appealed for the Constitutional Court to review the law. In addition, they also ask the INV to publish daily how many citizens have the right to vote on a given day and who have a residence address in a given municipality, in a given parliamentary constituency.
According to them, this second point is important so that everyone can control whether the number of citizens eligible to vote in a colony or constituency changes before the elections beyond the limits of natural processes of demography and population movement, indicating fraud. electoral.
They say that if the electoral office rejects this initiative, it will be “an open admission of what the ruling parties are doing”, in which case the opposition will request this data daily as data of public interest, and if necessary, the challenge in court.
Government: the amendment resolves an existing problem
On the part of the government, the PMO chief rejected criticism that the amendment solves a real problem: that many people (for example, those who go to study in another city or go to work abroad) who do not ” not register their change of residence by forgetting or for practical reasons, would potentially be held unnecessarily criminally responsible.
Gulyás also claimed that the amendment was also supported by most opposition MPs (it was voted on by the entire LMP group, for example) when voting in the National Assembly. He also accused the opposition of only opposing the amendment after being convinced that one of George Soros’ organizations (i.e. probably the Civil Liberties Union / TASZ which protested against the law shortly after the vote) also opposed it.
Several cases of abuse and abuse
There have certainly been a number of suspected cases even before the falsely registered addresses were illegal, only a few resulting in convictions.
Ukrainian citizens who have registered in Hungary do so for two reasons. The first is due to the Hungarian social protection system: a law of 1963 established that citizens of Russia and Ukraine (successors of the Soviet Union) can claim Hungarian social benefits, including pension, without paying contributions to the state, on condition that they give up their Ukrainian pensions, obtain a residence permit and settle in Hungary. This is already a problem that many locals with very few pensions feel unfair, because in Ukraine documents proving the history of higher paying jobs (ultimately meaning a higher pension for newcomers) are easier to find. get.
The second reason is the elections. To register on the electoral roll, you must have lived in a given location for at least three and a half months.
Returning in the 2018 parliamentary elections, (then critical for the government), Hír TV showed how dual Ukrainian-Hungarian nationality with a fictitious Hungarian address was transported to settlements near the border to vote for Fidesz-KDNP and the local candidate for the ruling alliance, Attila. Tilki, that the organizers of the tourism vote did not bother to hide.
After Jobbik took the case to court, the Supreme Court (Kúria) ruled that “the organized transport of dual citizens to vote along the Ukrainian-Hungarian border was illegal”, but ruled that “in the ‘lack of sufficient evidence’, Fidesz cannot be banned from practicing, so a repeat of the vote was not ordered either.
Kispalád, a village of 960 inhabitants on the Ukrainian border, was in the news both in the 2018 general elections and in the 2019 municipal elections. According to the findings of critical outlets for the government, there was a household where 93 people were registered. The son of the former mayor (who later became mayor) himself admitted to registering 30 people at his own address. And apparently there is an additional villager arrested for the same practice.
Similar suspected cases have been reported of Barabás (a village of 920 inhabitants) also located in the district of Tilki in Szabolcs-Szatmár-Bereg. A further 22 people were reported to have been registered at the house of an elderly local woman. In addition, the village’s electoral list increased by 286 people from 2014 to 2018, which is quite unusual for such a small village in such a poor part of Hungary.
While Gulyás also insisted that such cases will remain illegal and count as electoral fraud, it is questionable how the state could tackle these cases now that the legal context is even more permissive.
featured image illustration via Szilárd Koszticsák / MTI