Center for Fundamental Rights

Regional party lists are substituted by winner compensation system

In light of the final results of the 2014 parliamentary elections, it is worth assessing the compensation mechanisms introduced by the new electoral system. The Hungarian electoral system has been a mixed-system since 1990, consisting of party lists (PR) and single-member constituencies. The new electoral law, while maintaining features of the mixed-system, also included some modifications with regards to the proportional elements of the system: the previous three-channel system (seats could be won via the regional lists, national lists, or single-member constituencies) has been reduced to a two-channel system (seats can now be attained via the national party list or single-member constituencies) complemented by a compensation system which distributed mandates based on “lost votes” in the single member constituencies. The new element of the system is that the number of votes which exceed the necessary threshold for winning a mandate in the single-member constituencies is accounted for on the national party list as a compensation for the winner as well. This compensation scheme essentially replaces the impact of previous regional party lists which would have favoured the bigger, popular parties to the detriment of smaller ones by providing them greater chances to gain seats, thus making the whole system slightly more disproportional.

In fact, the somewhat stronger disproportionality of the new system stems from the fact that the number of seats gained in the single-member constituencies is larger than before and not from the new winner compensation scheme. Therefore, the ballots cast during the elections should not be compared against a theoretical situation where there would have not been any compensation scheme applicable to respective winners – but should be assessed in the light of the previous system that also entailed territorial party lists. In the previous electoral system, the winner would have gained 61% of the seats in the parliament. The ratio by which the winning party actually gained more seats during the 2014 election corresponds to the ratio by which the significance of the constituencies has grown in the new voting system in comparison to the previous voting scheme.

Download the executive summary here.