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Hungary’s Manipulated Election

Bálint Magyar and Bálint Madlovics in Project Syndicate illuminate the depth of Fidesz manipulation in Hungarian elections on 3 April. Fidesz manipulates elections by changing the rules of the game, with hundreds of amendments made over the past years to the election law. The party also wielded the power of state machinery, with cash payments disbursed to households in the month before election day. Pro-government forces spent eight times as much on political ads than the opposition, in potential violation of the spending cap. Fidesz also used public media as a propaganda machine, with pro-government control of most media outlets reflected in skewed coverage. The party capitalised on Russia's unjustified invasion of Ukraine by pushing a narrative of fear and selfishness, framing the opposition as "warmongers" and refusing to transfer costs from the anti-war effort to Hungarian families. The authors note that the electoral manipulation is not yet at the level seen in other countries such as Russia, with Hungarian elections considered "free but not fair". This dynamic translates to a difficult dilemma for opposition parties: in accepting their electoral mandates, they give legitimacy to an illegitimate electoral result, but by boycotting the parliament they would lose what little visibility they have for Hungarian voters.

Read the full piece here in Project Syndicate.

Read Bálint Magyar and Bálint Madlovics' report, Hungary 2022: Election Manipulation and the Regime’s Attempts at Electoral Fraud, here.