Hungary holds regular National Assembly elections every four years in the months of April or May. Voters elect 199 representatives to the National Assembly in a single-round election pursuant to Electoral Law CCIII of 2011—106 from individual electoral districts and 93 from national party-lists.
Voters thus cast two votes during National Assembly elections: one for an individual candidate in their electoral district and one for a party or party-alliance. There is no minimum participation threshold of eligible voters in order for National Assembly elections to be considered valid.
Candidates need to obtain 500 signatures on official recommendation forms in order to appear on the ballot within individual electoral-districts.
Parties need to qualify candidates in at least 27 of 106 individual electoral-districts in seven or more of the 19 counties in Hungary as well as the city of Budapest in order to appear on the national party-lists.
Candidates from national party-lists gain election to the National Assembly proportionally based on the number of votes for their party-list as well as votes for candidates defeated in individual electoral-districts as well as votes for winning candidates in individual electoral-districts in excess of what they needed to win (that is, the difference between the number of votes they received, minus the number of votes for second-place candidates, plus one).
Only those parties that receive more than five percent of composite votes in both individual electoral-districts and for party-lists qualify for representation in the National Assembly.
Main Changes to Electoral System Pursuant to the Electoral Law of 2011
On December 23, 2011 National Assembly representatives from the Fidesz–Christian Democratic People’s Party (KDNP) alliance and the democratic opposition parties adopted Law CCIII of 2011 “On the Election of National Assembly representatives.” Representatives from the radical-nationalist party Jobbik opposed the legislation on the grounds that new electoral districts defined in the legislation had been gerrymandered in favor of Fidesz-KDNP and that the distribution of excess votes for winning candidates in individual electoral-districts to the national party lists provided dominant parties with an unfair advantage (source A and B in Hungarian).
Law CCIII of 2011 resulted in the following major changes to the electoral system utilized in Hungary during the five parliamentary cycles following the country’s transition to democracy in 1990:
1-reduced the number of National Assembly representatives to 199 from 386;
2-reduced the number of individual electoral-districts to 106 from 176;
3-eliminated the requirement that 50 percent of eligible voters participate in National Assembly elections within a given electoral district in order for the initial round of elections to be considered valid;
4-eliminated the requirement that candidates receive an absolute majority of votes cast in order to win initial round of voting within individual electoral-districts, thus enabling candidates to win elections with a relative majority of votes cast;
5-eliminated the second round of voting in National Assembly elections pursuant to changes (3) and (4) above;
6-reduced the number of representatives elected to the National Assembly from party-lists from 210 to 93;
7-reduced the number of party-lists from two to one, eliminating the so-called territorial party-list (területi pártlista) in Hungary’s 19 counties and the city of Budapest, while retaining the national party-list (országos pártlista);
9- classified votes for winning candidate in excess of those needed to win elections in individual electoral-districts as so-called “fragementary votes” (töredékszavazat) added to votes for parties on the national party-list (in addition to those cast for losing candidates in individual electoral-districts as previously);
10-reduced the number of signed recommendation slips (ajánlószelvény) needed to stand as a candidate in an individual electoral-district to 500 from 750 and permitted eligible voters to sign more than one recommendation slip;
11-extended the right to vote for the party-lists in National Assembly elections to Hungarian citizens who do not live in Hungary (a condition that applies primarily to the approximately 2.5 million Hungarians who live as national minorities in neighboring countries);
12-permitted voters to register prior to elections to vote for single candidates from each of Hungary’s 13 Nationality Councils (Gypsy, German, Slovak, Ukrainian, Ruthene, Romanian, Serb, Croatian, Slovene, Polish, Bulgarian, Greek and Armenian) instead of parties on the national party-lists and granted these candidates preferential election to the National Assembly if they attain one-quarter of the votes needed to gain a mandate from the national party-lists.
Main Changes to Electoral System Pursuant to the Fundamental Law (Constitution)
On October 29, 2012, Fidesz-KDNP National Assembly representatives approved the Second Amendment to the Fundamental Law making preliminary registration a requirement for participation in national elections (source in Hungarian).
On January 4, 2013, the Constitutional Court annulled the Second amendment to the Fundamental Law on the grounds that it represented an unwarranted restriction on the right to vote (source in Hungarian).
Fidesz National Assembly Caucus Chairman Antal Rogán announced that in recognition of the Constitutional Court’s decision the party would not introduce prior registration as a condition for participation in the next national elections scheduled for 2014 (source in Hungarian).
On March 11, 2013, Fidesz-KDNP National Assembly representatives approved the Fourth Amendment of the Fundamental Law: one of the provisions of this amendment stipulated that political parties participating in National Assembly elections could only publish or broadcast campaign advertisements in public media during the defined campaign period for the elections.
On September 16, 2013, Fidesz-KDNP National Assembly representatives approved the Fifth Amendment to the Fundamental Law modifying provisions of the Fourth Amendment to the Fundamental Law to which the European Union, the Council of Europe and other international organizations had voiced objection, including that implicitly prohibiting political advertising in the commercial media during election-campaign periods. The Fifth Amendment to the Fundamental Law authorized campaign advertisements in the commercial media on the condition that such advertising was published or broadcast free of charge in equal proportion among all qualifying parties as in the public media.
Criticism of Changes to the Electoral law
Supporters of both radical-nationalist opposition party Jobbik and democratic opposition parties have claimed that the new Electoral Law is unfair for the following reasons: it gerrymandered electoral districts to the benefit of the Fidesz-KDNP party coalition; the distribution of excess votes for winning individual candidates to national party-lists favors dominant parties such as Fidesz-KDNP (see point 9 above); the right of Hungarian citizens who do not live in Hungary to vote is vulnerable to electoral fraud and is beneficial primarily to the Fidesz-KDNP party alliance, which after coming to power in 2010 expedited the process by which Hungarians living outside Hungary could obtain Hungarian citizenship; and the easing of requirements for candidates to qualify for participation National Assembly elections within individual electoral-districts (and therefore for parties to meet the conditions necessary to take part in national party-list voting) has served to increase the number of participating parties (from seven in 2010 to 18 in 2014), thus creating confusion among voters that benefits universally recognized dominant parties such as Fidesz-KDNP.
Moreover, opposition supporters assert that the absence of political advertising in the commercial media stemming from the stipulation of the Fifth Amendment to the Fundamental Law that such advertising must be published or broadcast free of charge during the campaign period preceding national elections has benefited the Fidesz-KDNP party alliance that exercises control over Hungary’s state-run media in which political advertising continues to appear.
Last updated: May 25, 2016.