Budapest, 21 March, 2022 -The European Network of Election Monitoring Organizations (ENEMO) – “The elections are being held in a polarized political environment, with campaigning characterized by an uneven playing field, as a result of misuse of state resources throughout the country, which leads to blurring of the line between the state and the ruling coalition, as well as unequal access to media. Personal attacks and discrediting rhetoric is widely present in the campaign. The lack of effective oversight mechanism for campaign funding and regulations of third-party campaigning funds does not ensure equality between the contestants. The election management bodies are cooperative with observers and are managing the process efficiently”- declared Head of the Mission Dritan Taulla.
The April 2022 Parliamentary Elections are being held against the background of a highly polarized political environment. The Russian invasion of Ukraine, on 24 February, changed the key topics of discussion and political discourse, dominating the public debate, while increasing the political polarization. Several ENEMO interlocutors have raised concerns about the worsening of the overall conditions for democratic elections.
According to the Deputy Head of Mission Elene Nizharadze: “The legal framework regulates all aspects of elections, yet some regulations do not adequately ensure transparency and effective prevention of violations. This mostly concerns campaign funding and abuse of state resources. The adoption of the latest electoral amendments in an expedited manner, without guaranteeing inclusive consultations, could be considered a missed opportunity for improving the electoral environment based on consensus. Apart from that, it should be noted that over the years, regulations on freedom of media and expression, civil society organizations, and access to information have undergone adverse changes that negatively influence the campaign environment and conduct of democratic elections in general. The strong discrepancy in the number of voters between constituencies is at odds with international best practice and the domestic legal framework, and it violates the equality of vote principle.”
As Election Administration Analyst Elidon Lamani said: “The EMBs are managing the process efficiently, in line with legal requirements and deadlines, and all technical preparations are ongoing. NEC sessions were open to international observers and media, the sessions’ agenda was published in advance, decisions were published right after the sessions, and the minutes within a few days. CoECs and CoEOs have been providing access to their work to observers and published session’s announcements, decisions and minutes on the websites of respective local authorities. ENEMO assesses the work of the EMBs during the observed period as overall transparent.
ENEMO positively assesses the review and adoption of the guidelines by the NEC before the announcement of Election Day, with all elected and delegated members involved. However, the lack of cross-party oversight during the interim period, still remains an unaddressed gap in the legal framework. ENEMO IEOM interlocutors expressed varied levels of confidence towards EMBs, especially with regards to the appointment of election commission members, at all levels.”
Most ENEMO IEOM interlocutors did not express distrust on the accuracy of the voters’ list. However, the lack of removal of data of deceased people from abroad from the by-mail voter registry still remains a concern.
In general, the right to stand for election has been respected. However, ENEMO deems that the increase in the number of candidates to be nominated in the single-member constituencies creates barriers for political parties to run in proportional elections and does not contribute to competitiveness of elections.
High competitiveness along with deep polarization, inflammatory rhetoric, as well as personal accusations and counter-campaigning are key features of the campaign. The Russian invasion of Ukraine in the middle of the campaign significantly changed the agenda of the contestants, increasing polarization.
“Pervasive overlapping between the state and ruling parties, as well as unhindered systemic misuse of administrative resources remain an unaddressed concern that contributes to creating an unlevel playing field. Hungarian legislation itself creates the legal ground for such practice as legitimate behavior, despite contradiction with the basic principles of electoral procedures and international standards. Public and private funding can be used for campaigning. No requirements are in place to make transparency on campaign finance prior to election day. The lack of effective legal control and regulations of third-party campaigning funds, even during the official campaign period, as well as legal gap on online political advertising, are among the main threats for equal opportunities between contestants” stated Political and Campaign Analyst Dmytro Tuzhanskyi.
According to Media Analyst Milica Zrnovic: “The media landscape is diverse and includes public and commercial broadcasters, as well as a variety of printed press and electronic media with local and national coverage. High concentration of media ownership and economic and political interests of the owners are widely perceived to be influencing media reporting and limiting media pluralism. Unequal access of electoral contestants to media, biased news reporting, and negative rhetoric and campaigning towards candidates were present during the electoral period. Social media has shown a crucial role for the engagement of the electorate and spread of political messages”.
Domestic civil society organizations are not allowed to observe elections, which contradicts best international practice and does not ensure large scale non-partisan and civic observation. Those civil society organizations that are critical towards the Government are often targets of discrediting rhetoric, conducted mostly by the ruling party. These practices are shrinking the space for civil society organizations.
ENEMO’s International Election Observation Mission for the 3 April 2022 Parliamentary Elections in Hungary is financially supported by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED). The content of the document is the sole responsibility of ENEMO and does not necessarily represent the position of the donor.