Center for Fundamental Rights

Kim Lane Scheppele’s fiction: 10 false claims about elections in Hungary

Princeton law professor Kim Lane Scheppele in a recent series of articles heavily criticized the new Hungarian electoral system. The Centre for Fundamental Rights carefully examined her claims in the context of the electoral rules currently in force, and came to the conclusion that Scheppele made a number of factual mistakes, in addition to being fundamentally wrong about the very nature of the Hungarian electoral system. Professor Scheppele mispresents the Hungarian electoral system as a proportional representation (PR) voting system – that is, as a purely party list system –, and asserts that the new legislation „puts Hungary out of line with all PR systems in Europe”. In reality, the Hungarian electoral system has functioned as a mixed system since 1990, which features party lists as a proportional element as well as individual constituencies as a key element. In this context, it makes no sense to discuss how the compensatory votes distort proportionality as the Hungarian electoral system has never been a primarily proportional representation system. Additionally, Scheppele’s findings are based on fundamental legal and factual mistakes. The Centre for Fundamental Rights collected the most significant ones; for instance, it was the Constitutional Court that required statutory changes regarding the regulation of voting districts, and it was not the legislature’s arbitrary decision. Scheppele disregards the fact that the former voting districts were originally set by a Council of Ministers decree which has not changed since 1990 and which clearly favoured left-wing parties. The author also fails to make mention of the fact that, in the case of party alliances, the parliamentary threshold has always been 10 and 15 per cent, ever since 1994. Regarding the election authorities, the professor neglects the circumstance that both the National Election Commission and the National Election Office have become more independent than their predecessors were, and the author also misconstrues the Venice Commission’s recommendations regarding the proportionality of constituencies, based on which, in contrast to the old legislation, the new law now guarantees equal franchise. Neither does she acknowledge that by virtue of their numbers and the weight of their votes, Hungarians living outside of Hungary do not exert a bigger influence on the outcome of the elections than those having a permanent residence in Hungary. The author is also seriously wrong when she argues that t the regulatory framework of out of country voting is deficient. The registration and voting of Hungarians beyond the borders is conducted under strict scrutiny and special regard to privacy rights and data collection by the electoral agencies on a continuous basis. In contrast to Scheppele’s claims, not only one but as many as four national minorities in Hungary may have the mathematical chance of obtaining preferential mandates, Finally, the author is wrong when she claims that the legislation relating to political advertising on billboards was a last minute change as it is governed by a government decree that was passed in 2011 and was found constitutional in 2013.

Download HERE.