Hungarian election monitors fear voter fraud could swing Sunday’s tight poll
Hungarian NGOs are trying to monitor vote counting at Sunday’s general election amid fears errors could swing the contest.
More than 20,000 ballot counters have been recruited by civil society organisations as populist prime minister and Putin ally Viktor Orban seeks a fourth term.
The group wants at least two volunteer ballot counters in all of the more than 10,000 polling stations across Hungary.
The April 3 election is seen as an unfair contest with the agenda dominated by Orban’s media allies.
The International Press Institute reported that the state media was “uncritically echoing the messaging of the government and acting as a year-round campaign tool of the ruling party.” It said the government was using its massive advertising budget to finance allied private media groups and shun those that do not provide favourable coverage.
“It is not right that in Hungary in a large number of electoral districts … there are no ballot counters representing the opposition,” said Judit Szanto of Szamoljuk Egyutt (Let’s Count Together), one of the NGOs training vote counters.
“This thing was devised to organize people to oversee the cleanliness of the election on the suspicion that if they don’t, there will be fraud,” Szanto said.
Polling predicts a tight race between Orban’s Fidesz and United For Hungary, a six-party opposition coalition.
The outcome of the general election in many districts might be decided by a few votes.
Adam Sanyo of Let’s Count Together several of the nation’s 106 voting districts will probably be decided by fewer than 1,500 votes.
Volunteers will monitor the voting process throughout the day and are being trained to recognise irregularities.
The Organization for Security and Cooperation (OSCE) in Europe is due to send observers, including 18 long-term observers and 200 others on election day. The international agency has never fully monitored elections within another European Union member state.
The OSCE called Hungary’s 2014 general election “free but not fair” and said the 2018 vote was dominated by a “pervasive overlap between state and ruling party resources, undermining contestants’ ability to compete on an equal basis”.
Last year’s changes to electoral law allow Hungarians to vote in constituencies where they have a registered address even if they do not live there.
The opposition claimed this would allow “voter tourism”, where voters in safe seats can congregate in tight constituencies.
The OSCE reported last week that the legal changes were made by Fidesz “without a genuine consultative process”.
A Fidesz representative said OSCE observers were welcome and Hungary’s “procedural management of elections” was one of the EU’s best.
Opposition leader Peter Marki-Zay. Picture credit: YouTube