According to nol.hu, it will be much more complicated to “send a message to Brussels” from London or from Brussels than from Transylvania, as the same rules will be valid at the October 2 referendum on migrant quotas as the ones at the parliamentary elections. While the dual citizens living in neighbouring countries can vote via letter, the hundred thousands of Hungarians working or living abroad with Hungarian postal address can only vote at foreign representations. For those living in big cities this only means a long queue, but for those living in places without an embassy or consulate this means a lot of traveling, and by lot we mean thousands of kilometres on the continents like America or Australia.
The differentiation already caused a lot of arguments two years ago at the parliamentary elections. But the complaints were rejected by the European Court of Human Rights and the Constitutional Court. Their argument was the following: since the two groups’ voting right is different (meaning that transborder Hungarians can only vote for parties, while citizens living abroad with Hungarian postal address can also vote for individual candidates), it is acceptable that their voting options are different too.
However, this argument cannot be applied to the referendum on migrant quotas: there will be only one voting-paper and one question. István Ujhelyi, vice-president of MSZP, thinks that even though equal voting rights already got hurt at the parliamentary elections, this is beyond doubt in the case of the referendum, as you can only answer with ‘yes’ or ‘no’ whether or not you have a Hungarian postal address.
He asked András Patyi, the president of the National Voting Committee, what he did to ensure equal voting rights, because the current solution labels people working abroad as secondary citizens. The answer wasn’t hopeful: Patyi said that they only practice the law and have reporting obligation towards the parliament. Then he rejected that the current practice is against the constitution as, by the decision of the Constitutional Court, the state can guarantee the practice of voting rights in several ways.
This is really what the Constitutional Court’s regulation concludes and adds: the Hungarian postal address gives a base of differentiation. People working abroad could even fly home for the day of the referendum and since “constituents with permanent Hungarian postal address have a more informal and stronger relation with the state, it can be expected that they vote personally or at foreign representations.” This strange argument brings up a new question: why does the weaker relation result in the same voting right?
István Ujhelyi believes that Fidesz is not shy to campaign illegally, arouse hatred, or even go against the constitution for the sake of the referendum. “The assuring of equal voting rights should be the elemental obligation of the state. If the differentiation is kept alive and the electoral organisations don’t guarantee the right of equal and free vote, then it all strengthens MSZP’s standing-point: we shouldn’t take part in the referendum” said Ujhelyi, who previously started a petition for equal voting rights.
Nol.hu writes that the law about the voting procedure, which became operative in May 2013, first enabled the listing of citizens working abroad with Hungarian postal address into the register of people voting via letter. However, the parliament modified the law one and a half months later, which takes us to the present situation.
In October 2013, a complainant living in Ipswich, 137 kilometres away from the Hungarian Embassy in London, turned to the Constitutional Court way before the parliamentary elections, but the establishment only rejected the petition this April.
The mover referred to the constitution and that it doesn’t allow differentiation by postal address. But the Constitutional Court decided differently by 8:5 votes. According to István Stumpf, who expressed his own opinion on the subject, it is a mistake that most of the judges qualify the method of voting a subsidiary technical circumstance. “I am convinced that the law of voting procedure unreasonably limits the voting right of those being abroad on the day of the election with Hungarian postal address, that is to say it discriminates them.” The Constitutional Court also referred to the decision of the Strasbourg Court but as it was mentioned above, the argument is invalid in this case.
The voting via letter of people working abroad wouldn’t have caused technical difficulty in the time of the parliamentary elections. It tells a lot that 128 thousand dual citizens voted this way, mainly from neighbouring countries, while only 24 thousand people voted at foreign representations. In other words, hundred thousands of Hungarian studying or working abroad were kept away from voting.
Probably the same will happen at the referendum on migrant quotas.
Copy editor: bm