Budapest, August 22 (MTI) – A special session of Hungary’s parliament initiated by the Jobbik party aimed at amending the election law was abandoned for lack of a quorum on Monday.
Jobbik proposed amending the election law with a view to making it easier for Hungarians working or studying abroad to vote in the upcoming national referendum on EU migrant quotas on Oct 2.
Hungarians who have a permanent address in the country but are abroad on the day of an election or referendum can vote at a Hungarian embassy or consular office, while ethnic Hungarians living beyond the border can vote by mail.
Jobbik said these rules were unfair, arguing that many Hungarians working in western Europe “have to travel hundreds of kilometres” to exercise their voting rights at a representative office.
The opposition Socialist and LMP parties supported Jobbik’s initiative to hold a special parliamentary session, whereas the ruling Fidesz party and their Christian Democrat ally signalled they would not attend.
Fidesz last week rejected the proposal to amend the election law, saying that the current one is “coherent and has stood scrutiny by international organisations such as the European Court of Human Rights and the Venice Commission”. Group leader Lajos Kósa said the opposition parties were using the amendment proposal to thwart the upcoming referendum.
Opposition LMP’s Bernadett Szél said lawmakers of the ruling parties have failed to meet their obligation to represent all Hungarians including residents in other countries. She went on to say that the referendum was a mere “trick” for the government or else they would make sure that “the votes of all Hungarian citizens are equal”.
The Liberal Party called the ruling parties’ staying away from the session “outrageous, unacceptable”. In a statement, Liberal leader Gábor Fodor said that the current election law was discriminative in the sense that it made for Hungarians staying or working abroad more difficult to vote than for ethnic Hungarians holding dual citizenship. He suggested that “the government is concerned” that the “large number of Hungarians” in other countries could vote “for the EU at the anti-European referendum”. Fodor repeated his call that voters should participate in the referendum and cast their ballot against the government’s initiative.
The Együtt party also demanded equal voting rights to all Hungarian citizens.
The Dialogue for Hungary (PM) party proposed introducing electronic voting in Hungary’s election system.
Socialist deputy group leader László Szakács called on Fidesz to stop discrimination and ensure equal voting rights to all Hungarians.
The spokesman for Fidesz’s parliamentary group noted that the Socialists had stayed away from a meeting of parliamentary parties on the subject in early August. But ten days later the party’s lawmakers stated support for the same initiative they had branded earlier as “selfish and unconvincing,” János Halász told a press conference. He called Jobbik’s proposal a draft lacking thorough preparation and insisted that amending procedural rules right before a ballot would be equal to “trampling on” democratic traditions.