Early Report from the Front

Opening the polls in Budapest.

Opening the polls in Budapest.

The blueness of day has began to materialize on the streets of Budapest. The air is dank and dirty, the pavement wet from a light overnight rain. Soggy cartons, tattered food wrappers, empty bottles and cans, the fresh refuse of a Saturday night in the city. 

The polling station in the new Attila József High School has just opened. Orange Files steps in, finds the room for the voting district designated on the registration notice: the second voter in the district, he watches the first voter and spouse ceremonially check all three ballot boxes before election officials to ensure that they haven’t been pre-stuffed. 

The officials close the boxes and tie them shut with red, white and green ribbon. Hungary’s 2014 National Assembly elections have officially begun. 

Orange Files had always heard—and doubted—that many voters do not actually know whom they will vote for before they step into the voting booth. On this morning, he is living proof of this claim: all of the modern democratic parties have splintered into small factions struggling for survival or joined larger party-conglomerations that still harbor unseemly elements from Hungary’s authoritarian past (but at least not from its authoritarian present). 

Pull the curtains behind, lay two large ballots on the stand—a small one listing seven individual candidates from the voting district and a very large one listing the eighteen parties that have qualified for national party-list voting. 

Green? Red? Split ticket? National Gypsy Party just so you can say you did it? Go with the feeling, place the Xs in the Os and get out. 

On the way down the hall the little girl asks her parents: “Who did you vote for?” 

Orange Files National Assembly election update from the 25th subdistrict of the 2nd voting district of Budapest as of 6:15 a.m.: Politics Can Be Different (LMP) 1; Change of Government (Kormányváltás) 1; Fidesz 0, Jobbik 0; all others 0. 

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