Hungarian Law Threatens Fair Elections, Transparency Says

Hungary’s new election law may open the way for voter fraud in the next balloting, Transparency International said.

Based on the law approved this month, it will be impossible to verify how many people cast ballots by mail and to verify their identities, Transparency International’s Budapest-based Hungarian unit said in a statement posted on its website today.

“It can’t be ruled out that fictitious ballots be cast in the name of those registered to cast ballots by mail but who end up not voting,” Transparency said, adding that the data will be “essentially secret.”

Hungary will hold parliamentary elections in 2014, with Prime Minister Viktor Orban seeking re-election to confirm his unprecedented consolidation of power since winning at the polls in 2010 with a two-thirds parliamentary majority.

Orban’s lawmakers have since rewritten the constitution over opposition protests, redrawn electoral districts and changed the election rules, ousted the chief justice of the Supreme Court and picked party allies to head independent institutions including the media regulator and the Audit Office and to fill the benches of the Constitutional Court.

The electoral law “doesn’t guarantee political parties or international observers the right to review the register of those voting by mail,” Transparency said, adding that the register is of “public interest.”

A lack of transparency in party financing and a ban on campaign ads in private media also threaten the legitimacy of the 2014 vote, the report said.

‘Serious Concerns’

The Constitutional Court struck down the ban on political campaign ads in private media before Orban’s lawmakers, using their two-thirds parliamentary majority, inserted it into the Constitution last month and barred justices from reviewing the issue again.

The European Commission, the EU’s executive, has “serious concerns over the compatibility” of the most recent constitutional amendment, including on the banning of political ads in private media, EC President Jose Barroso said in an April 12 letter to Orban. The government has since submitted a bill to parliament which would allow such ads in European Parliament elections.

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