President János Áder has set April 8 as the date of Hungary’s general election, the earliest possible Sunday that the ballot can be held under the law.
According to the latest Medián poll, the ruling Fidesz party has the support of 40 percent of the electorate and the backing of 61 percent of committed voters. In the survey published in November, Fidesz’s support among all voters was the highest since January 2011. Radical nationalist party Jobbik had the backing of 11 percent, while the Socialists were preferred by 7 percent. Green party LMP notched up 4 percent, while the Democratic Coalition had 5 percent.
Ruling Fidesz group leader Gergely Gulyás said all conditions were in place to hold a free election. He added that the formal approval of the party’s individual candidates would be granted by the party’s national board next Tuesday.
At the same time, Gulyás warned that US billionaire George Soros was “ready to interfere with the election”.
He insisted that Soros is “not a democrat and he does not respect national sovereignty”. He went on to say that Soros “promotes immigration” thus “questioning Hungarians’ right to determine who they want to live together with”.
Dániel Z Kárpát, deputy leader of the Jobbik party, questioned the legitimacy of the upcoming election, referring to a large fine the State Audit Office recently imposed on his party. He insisted that Jobbik was the only opposition party with the potential to win the election. He added that the ruling parties, however, were trying to “kill off” their political adversaries and would build a single-party system. Concerning a suggestion that Jobbik could pay the fine imposed for allegedly receiving illegal financing, at a later date after the election, Z Kárpát said that it would be “equal to acknowledging that the fine is justified”, which his party “will not do”.
The co-ruling Christian Democrats welcomed Áder’s announcement of the date and said that “the sooner the better” the election is held. Group leader Péter Harrach said that a lengthy election campaign “would not do good” to the political parties or Hungarian society.
The leftist Democratic Coalition (DK) said they had expected the president to set the election at the earliest date and voiced optimistic expectations saying that “it does not matter when DK and its allies topple Fidesz”.
The election campaign officially starts 50 days before the date of the ballot — on Feb. 17 this time round.
Hungary’s 7.9 million voters will have the opportunity to cast two ballots in the single-round election deciding 199 seats.
One ballot directly elects lawmakers in 106 individual constituencies. A formula is used to allocate the remaining seats based on votes cast for a party list.
Prospective candidates must secure 500 signatures by March 5 to run in an individual constituency.
A party may draw up a national list if they have at least an individual candidate in 27 constituencies in at least nine counties and Budapest. Parties must submit their national lists to the National Election Committee (NVB) by March 6.
Hungarian voters with an address in Hungary who reside abroad must go to an embassy or consulate to cast their ballots on the day of the election. Beforehand they must register with a local notary by March 31.
Non-Hungarian residents who have Hungarian citizenship will also have the right to vote. They must register with the National Election Office (NVI) by March 24. Ballot papers will be sent to voters and these must be mailed to either a Hungarian foreign mission by the end of the voting period, to a local constituency election office or to the National Election Office by April 7.
Voters who register themselves as a member of a national minority will cast their ballot for the list of the respective minority rather than for national parties. A national minority may field candidates on a list with the recommendation of at least one percent of their national minority voters.
Parties need at least 5 percent of votes cast for their list in order to get seats in parliament.
Under the constitution, the founding session of the new parliament will be convened by the president of the republic within 30 days of the general election. The prime minister will be elected by a majority of lawmakers based on the president’s proposal. Parliament will approve the government’s programme and elect the prime minister simultaneously.
Under the law, Hungary’s new parliament must be formed by May 8 at the latest.