The procedural rules for the election of the members of parliament are laid down in Act XXXVI of 2013 on the Electoral Procedure. The law sets out several principles that shall prevail when applying the rules of the electoral procedure. These are as follows: the protection of the fairness of the election, voluntary participation in the election procedure, equal opportunities for candidates and nominating organizations, support for voters with a disability in exercising their right to vote, exercising of rights in good faith in accordance with their purpose, the publicity of the electoral procedure.
The domestic regulations also provide an observer of another state or international organization registered by the National Electoral Office – for the purpose of observing the elections – the possibility to observe the entire electoral procedure and to be present at the work of the election bodies. It also guarantees that the international observer shall have access to the files of the election commissions, request a copy thereof, put questions to members of the electoral bodies and draw attention to any irregularities he or she has experienced. However, a number of other bodies are helping to ensure that the elections are held in a fair and orderly manner.
Electoral commissions are independent bodies of the electorate, subject only to the law, whose primary task is to determine the election result, ensure the fairness and legitimacy of the elections, enforce impartiality and, if necessary, restore the legal order of the elections. The extraordinary importance of these tasks places an obligation on the members of the electoral commission to take an oath. Another rule on guarantee to ensure that elections are free from abuse is that members of all types of electoral commissions, including the National Electoral Commission and the ballot-counting commission, may be delegated by various nominating organizations (e.g., parties). In addition, the nominating body entitled to appoint a member to the National Electoral Commission may entrust observers to the National Electoral Office to verify the legality of the ballot documents and the counting of the votes.
The National Electoral Office is an autonomous government agency and subject only to the law; it may not be bound by any instructions regarding its duties, and it shall carry out its tasks independently of other bodies and free from outside influences, and any function may be assigned to it only by law or other legislation issued pursuant to law. Persons who served as President of the Republic, a member of the Government, secretary of state, representative, vice mayor, vice Lord Mayor of party official or employee in the four years prior to the date of the nomination may not be appointed President of the National Election Office. In addition, the President of the organization may not be a member of any party and may not engage in political activities, and his or her mandate shall not be compatible with any other state or municipality position or role. The requirements for a complex system of impartiality and conflict of interest is particularly important because the National Election Office, and the election offices in general, perform organizational tasks related to the preparation for and conduct of elections, provide information for voters, candidates and nominating organizations, on the handling and secure storage of documents. In addition, they shall provide the material and technical conditions for the conduct of voting, operate the election information systems needed for the preparation for and conduct of the election, and assist in the aggregation of votes and the determination of the outcome of the election.
In addition to ensuring the independence and impartiality of electoral bodies at several levels, domestic regulations provide additional guarantees for conducting fair, non-abusive elections in accordance with a number of detailed rules. Media service providers are obliged to publish political advertisements of nominating organizations that nominate and list candidates, as well as of independent candidates on equal terms. In the campaign period prior to the general election of members of parliament, the public media services are also obliged to publish the political advertisements of the nominating organizations with a national list on equal terms, a requirement set by the legislator at the level of the Fundamental Law. However, the principle of equal opportunities also applies to ballot papers, as the candidates and lists are listed in the order drawn by the Electoral Commission, and the information must be in the same font and font size. Polling stations must be designed in a way that they guarantee the exercise of the right of the electorate without interference, but if voting nevertheless becomes impossible due to an event jeopardising the freedom of secrecy of the election, it must be suspended immediately. During ballot counting, only the ballot-counting commission, the secretary of the minutes, the representative of the media content provider and the international observer may be present in the polling station. Ballot papers and votes shall be counted at least twice until the result is the same as a previous count. Packages containing ballot papers shall be sealed in such a way that it is not possible to remove or insert a ballot paper without damaging the packaging. If an infringement nevertheless occurs, a multi-level redress system guarantees that it will be fully investigated.
The above constitutional and statutory provisions provide a complex, multi-level system of protection and guarantees, one by one, to ensure the legality, fairness, and impartiality of domestic elections. In addition to enforcing this high level of domestic defence, it is no coincidence that, according to the expert opinion of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) report on the Hungarian parliamentary elections in 2018, supplemented with political elements, the technical implementation of the elections was professional and transparent, and freedoms prevailed. The OSCE also pointed out that the recently amended legal framework for the elections provided an appropriate basis for conducting democratic elections. Electoral bodies effectively fulfilled their mandate, enjoyed trust among those concerned at all levels and were judged to be impartial. The international organization also reported that the purpose of public funding for the campaigns and the campaign spending ceiling was to ensure equal opportunities for candidates, and that the right to seek redress for election violations extended to everyone.
Despite the above, the Hungarian electoral procedure and related processes have recently been the subject of sharp criticism by two organizations, the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) and Unhack Democracy. According the ECFR prediction, “Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán will lose the election but will declare himself victorious […] and remain in power.” Unhack Democracy, on the other hand, is urging the OSCE observer mission, whose presence it considers necessary from the start of the campaign, as it believes the risk of fraud is particularly high in the 2022 elections.
The Berlin-based European Council on Foreign Relations is an international think tank that conducts European foreign and security policy research. The founder of the research institute is Mark Leonard, who is a regular author of the left-liberal international media organization called Project Syndicate, on the surfaces of which George Soros repeatedly attacks Hungary.
The most important organizational unit of the ECFR is the Council, which is “the strongest and most spectacular expression” of the organization’s identity. The Council brings together a number of left-wing European decision-makers and experts, including Klára Dobrev, Gordon Bajnai from Hungary, and George Soros, founder and chairman of the Open Society Foundations, and also his son, Alexander Soros, vice-president of OSF. According to the Soros Foundation’s public database, the ECFR has received nearly USD 12 million (nearly HUF 4 billion in today’s currency) from the Open Society Foundations since 2016, and nearly 80 percent of this huge amount has not been sent on specific projects but as “general support”.
Unhack Democracy is a non-profit organization registered in Belgium, whose first major project examined the processes of the 2018 Hungarian parliamentary elections. As part of this, based on interviews with opposition ballot counters, Unhack Democracy found that the fairness of the domestic elections was not provided.
The activities of the organization also attracted the attention of the left-liberal political actors and decision-makers, thus in 2019, organized by Klára Dobrev, the NGO was able to present its results in the European Parliament. It might have also consulted Gwendoline Delbos Corfield, a Green Party alternate of the LIBE Committee, who had taken over from Judith Sargentini as rapporteur on the rule of law in Hungary, and who, following her visit last September, questioned the fairness of the elections in April and compared the conditions in Hungary to a one-party system, citing a Member of Parliament from Jobbik. All this is noteworthy because the aim of the Unhack Democracy was to take into account the report compiled with a similar research methodology, i.e., on the basis of individual opposition reports in the Article 7 proceedings against Hungary.
Against this background, it is not surprising that Vera Jourova, Vice-President of the Commission, who can be linked to George Soros, personally invited the organization to a public consultation on the integrity of elections. In addition, from September 2021, the co-founders of Unhack will be holding courses at the Central European University (CEU), founded by the American billionaire.
But the details surrounding the NGO’s other projects also cast significant doubt on its true independence. The e-learning platform is supported by the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, a political foundation affiliated to the German social democratic SPD, and its conferences are jointly organized by funders and co-organizers such as The German Marshall Fund of the United States, or Funky Citizens, a member of the International Budget Partnership, which has received more than USD 16 million (nearly HUF 5 billion in today’s currency) from the Open Society Foundations since 2016.
The European Council on Foreign Relations and Unhack Democracy conduct their “independent research” on Hungarian election regulations and processes against such an advisory and supportive background. All this clearly shows that also in this case we can only talk about the recent delegitimization efforts of the international network of the left, organized on political basis, which is due to the strong policy of the civil-national government rejecting left-liberal efforts and aims at overthrowing the legitimate will of the people expressed in democratic elections.