Hungary holds 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—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 at the national level.
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 in individual electoral districts.
Parties need to qualify candidates in at least 27 of 106 individual electoral districts in at least 7 of the 19 counties in Hungary as well as the city of Budapest in order to appear on the national party lists.
National Assembly seats are distributed to parties via the party lists proportionally based on the number of votes cast for the parties plus the number of so-called fragmentary votes (töredékszavazat) cast for candidates affiliated with the parties in the individual electoral districts—that is, those votes cast for losing candidates in the electoral districts as well as those cast for winning candidates beyond the one vote needed for victory over the second-place candidate.
Parties must receive more than five percent of the party votes in order to gain National Assembly representation via the party lists.
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 adopted Law CCIII of 2011 “On the Election of National Assembly representatives” (source in Hungarian). Representatives from the opposition parties opposed the legislation primarily 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 (see below).
Law CCIII of 2011 resulted in the following major changes to the National Assembly electoral system utilized in Hungary during the first 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 must participate in elections held in individual electoral districts in order for such elections to be valid;
4-eliminated the requirement that candidates must receive an absolute majority of votes in elections held in individual electoral districts in order for such elections to be valid, thereby enabling candidates to win elections held in individual electoral districts if they receive only a relative majority of votes cast;
5-eliminated the possible second round of voting in individual electoral districts in accordance with 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 fragmentary 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 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).
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 publish or broadcast campaign advertisements only in the 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 objected, including that which had implicitly prohibited 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 7 in 2010, to 18 in 2014 and 23 in 2018), thus creating confusion among voters that benefits universally recognized dominant parties such as Fidesz and the 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 10, 2018.