Friday, February 28, 2014

Hungary's authoritarian system and the upcoming April 6 elections

Paul Krugman invited Kim Lane Scheppele to explain on his blog how Hungary's current political system has been rigged to be authoritarian in fact while remaining nominally democratic in form. Her article, "Hungary: An Election in Question," (02/28/2014) is in five parts on the blog:

Part I: The Political Landscape
Part II: Writing the Rules to Win – The Basic Structure
Part III: Compensating the Winners
IV: The New Electorate (in which Some are more Equal than Others)
V: The Unequal Campaign

She describes how the ruling rightwing party Fidesz has created a situation where it would be virtually impossible for it to lose the election scheduled for April 6:

Fidesz won the last elections in 2010 fair and square. But this time the election is unlikely to be judged so favorably. The whole election framework – the laws, the institutions and even the new electorate – favors Fidesz because the governing party has used its four years in office with its two-thirds majority in the parliament to redesign every aspect of the electoral system to its advantage.

Fidesz also overwhelmingly dominates the offline media and has closed off almost all avenues through which opposition parties can reach the electorate. New decrees from local Fidesz-affiliated officials around the country and misleading instructions from election officials are creating last-minute campaign obstacles that put the opposition even more on the wrong foot.

Under the new election framework, the allied opposition parties cannot win a parliamentary majority, even if they gain more votes than the governing party. Simultaneously, the changes also make it nearly inevitable that the governing party will keep its two-thirds parliamentary majority even if it gets less than half of the overall vote.
They've done this by an extreme form of redistricting and other measures to have a nominally democratic election be held without essential elements that make a democratic election actually democratic:

These effects occur because the way that the districts are drawn and the votes are aggregated. It doesn’t even count all of the other things that Fidesz is doing to help the opposition lose, like monopolizing the media, operating an election office that is giving out misleading instructions and only selectively registering to vote Hungarian citizens who are living abroad.

If Fidesz is reelected under this self-dealing system, then it is hard to avoid the conclusion that the election has been rigged. Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s “mandate” will be tainted.
They also use voter suppression: "Fidesz has granted dual citizenship and therefore voting rights to ethnic Hungarians outside the borders who are overwhelmingly Fidesz supporters, while at the same time maintaining a system that makes it comparatively harder for Hungarian citizens living or working abroad to vote."

It's a sign of how badly the European Union has drifted away from its basic mission of peace and democracy that the EU is, while not ignoring the antidemocratic developments in EU member Hungary altogether, they are effectively shrugging their shoulders at it.

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