Elections in Hungary were not a fair fight, observers say – POLITICO

BUDAPEST – International observers on Monday raised concerns about Hungary’s parliamentary elections, saying voting conditions had been tipped in favor of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s government.

Orbán’s right-wing populist Fidesz party won Sunday’s parliamentary elections for the fourth straight year, winning another two-thirds majority in Hungary’s parliament.

Pundits and critics have long claimed that Fidesz enjoys an unfair advantage in Hungary. The electoral system is designed to favor the ruling party and also controls much of the media and advertising landscape.

In an unusual move for an EU member state that reflects widespread concerns about the state of democracy in Hungary, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) deployed a major mission of over 200 observers to the elections in Hungary.

The mission found that while the candidates faced few procedural issues on Election Day – which was held in parallel with an anti-LGBTQ+ referendum – they did not compete on an equal footing.

“The April 3 parliamentary elections and referendum were well organized and conducted professionally, but marred by the lack of a level playing field,” said the International Election Observation Mission in preliminary conclusions published Monday afternoon.

“Participants were largely free to campaign, but while competitive, the campaign had an extremely negative tone and was characterized by pervasive coalition-government overlap,” the mission noted.

“Lack of transparency and inadequate scrutiny of campaign finance,” the observers said, “further benefited the ruling coalition,” while “bias and imbalance in monitored reporting and the lack of debates among key candidates severely limited voting options by one.” to make an informed choice.”

The mission also noted that the manner in which many election disputes were handled “did not provide an effective remedy.”

International observers had raised similar questions in 2018 after the last parliamentary elections in Hungary. Now many pundits and diplomats say the problems have deepened.

“How can an election ever be free and fair in a state conquered by the ruling party and when a campaign is built on slander and fear?” asked a Western diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity. According to the diplomat, the OSCE report is “stronger than 2018”.

While officially in Hungary at the invitation of the national authorities, the OSCE Mission has faced public criticism from the country’s own government.

Orbán lashed out at observers in the days leading up to the election, tell pro-government media that “election observation is no longer observation but accusation: how can the political forces that they don’t like but win be accused well in advance.”

The Hungarian government did not respond to a request for comment on the mission’s findings. Elections in Hungary were not a fair fight, observers say - POLITICO

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