Hungary: Planned election law change could hamper opposition

BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — Hungary’s government is considering an electoral law amendment that would make it harder for opposition parties to pursue their unity strategy against the powerful ruling party in future elections.

After a 2012 overhaul by the ruling Fidesz party and its leader, Prime Minister Viktor Orban, Hungary’s two-ballot election system has allowed parties to field individual candidates in the country’s 106 single-member voting districts and to present voters with a national party list.

Currently, election law requires that parties must run candidates in a minimum of 27 voting districts in at least nine counties and the capital Budapest in order to present a national list. The new proposal, approved 8-4 on Tuesday by parliamentary committee, would significantly increase this minimum requirement.

The government argues the changes are necessary to prevent fake parties from abusing state funding they receive for election campaigns.

If approved by the ruling party’s parliamentary supermajority, the amendment would force opposition parties to join in running a single national list against Fidesz. This could widen ideological fault lines within the tenuous coalition and make it more difficult to unseat Orban’s government.

For months, the opposition has negotiated the details of a unity strategy against Orban in forthcoming 2022 elections, vowing to coordinate candidates in individual districts in an effort to prevent splitting opposition votes, and to adopt a common political platform and single candidate for prime minister.

This strategy brought substantial gains to the opposition in municipal elections last year, where opposition candidates took the majority of Hungary’s cities including Budapest.

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