Is the Western media right to bash Viktor Orbán’s electoral reform?

2014. március 10. 10:34

Henry Stanek
Epoch Times
Voices of the Euro-pundit blogosphere have argued that the new electoral system is disproportionately skewed in Orbán’s favor, but are such claims true?

„The country’s new electoral law has dramatically reshaped the playing field. Voices of the Euro-pundit blogosphere have argued that the new electoral system is disproportionately skewed in Orbán’s favor, but are such claims true?


According to Kenneth Benoit of the London School of Economics, the previous Hungarian electoral system was »one of the most complicated in the world«. Hashed out during the round table talks held in 1989 between the emerging democratic opposition and the communist party leadership, it was largely seen as a compromise between all sides and was merely supposed to assure the country’s democratic transition. Its temporary nature was even inscribed in the preamble to the 1989 Constitution.(...)

The new electoral system also uses a novel distribution method, through which both winning and losing parties are compensated in Parliament. It increases the chances of securing a stable majority while ensuring representation for losing parties, which are encouraged to form coalitions. The law tends favors majorities but stops short of a British style system, which excludes small parties but is rarely declared undemocratic.

The opposition did raise some concerns that the changes are just gerrymandering tactics meant to provide FIDESZ with an unlawful majority following the vote in April. Others have argued that »this government of lawyers has created a complex legal framework in which rules may appear to be neutral, but they don’t have neutral effects«. There is a consensus that the new law does not go far enough and that more reforms could have been implemented.

Indeed, the system could have been simplified. An outside observer could argue that a simple, majoritarian system would have worked better. But which system is perfect? The fact that the Union is home to 28 different electoral systems is a case in point. A couple of years ago, the UK was debating on whether it should abandon its trademark electoral model, which produces large majorities but makes it almost impossible for smaller parties to emerge.

The positive effects of the law are already apparent. In order to increase their electoral chances, the main opposition parties managed to come together and agree on a single list of candidates, a feat that wouldn’t have been achievable under the older, less competitive system. Even so, voters were not impressed.”
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