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NGO launches campaign for the fairness of the 2022 general elections in Hungary

On Wednesday at a conference held in the European Parliament, international NGO Unhack Democracy announced the launch of their campaign for ensuring the presence of at least two non-governmental ballot counters at all of the 10 286 polling stations of the 2022 Hungarian general election in order to prevent malpractices at the election.

Garvan Walshe, the leader of the organisation told Index that they intend to "make sure that the law is properly enforced and the elections and the vote-counting is honestly carried out," and "train the party ballot counters and to make sure that they are in the good part of the country" as they have experienced anomalies and pressure in rural polling stations:

"[More ballot counters] are not really needed in Budapest, they need to go to places outside the capital where local people from the opposition feel intimidated by Fidesz"

Activists of Unhack Democracy presented their report to the European Parliament that questions Fidesz's overwhelming 2018 election victory and claims to reveal voter intimidation and manipulation.

The document published in May lists anomalies in the polling stations based on personal, over-the-phone, and written interviews conducted with 165 polling station officials. The document notes that 16% of respondents encountered suspicious occurrences during the 2018 general election. Unhack Democracy therefore claims:

The 2018 election results do not accurately reflect the intention of the voters, without the anomalies, Fidesz would not have a supermajority in the Parliament.

They also published a video interview with a Roma woman from Kispalád who talks about being ostracised and pushed into financial problems, as she was not allowed into the public work program for going against the will of the village's mayor. The woman says that 94 dual citizens were registered into her house. Her conflict with the mayor started when police appeared at her house looking for a suspected criminal registered at her address. On the video, she says:

"This is a small village, and if a Roma woman does not do what a Fidesz mayor tells her to do, then she has two choices: either she never gets into the public works program ever again, or she signs a paper." Her son pleads Brussels to "help the poor people who speak up for the truth." (With approval from the woman's lawyer, Unhack Democracy shared the videos with Index. They are available here with English subtitles: Part 1, 2, 3.)

Other testimonies gathered by Unhack Democracy mention instances of municipality employees refusing to show the voter registry to opposition ballot counters, or not allowing them to accompany the mobile ballot box to pensioners' homes. In Szabolcs-Szatmár-Bereg county, a polling station official recalled four or five instances where sick, elderly people had slips of paper at their bedsides reminding them to vote for Fidesz. Zsófia Banuta, an activist of the organisation told a story at the conference about a 90-year-old woman receiving threats of being thrown out of the pensioner's home if she doesn't vote for Fidesz, and they found evidence of "bussing phantom voters" as well. 

In response to Index's question about the methodology behind the report, Banuta said that they visited constituencies where it could be suspected that malpractices would happen and that they only talked to opposition ballot counters, with a single exception. 

Fidesz MEP: There was no election fraud, this is a distraction

MEP Tamás Deutsch (Fidesz) responded to MEP Klára Dobrev (DK) who called the conference together where Unhack Democracy presented their findings. Deutsch said Dobrev's invitation contained "obviously untrue statements and malicious suggestions."

Deutsch pointed out that several international election observers monitored the 2018 general election and the 2019 European elections, but "no remarks or recommendations have been made on the issues raised by Mrs Dobrev." He noted that the IT system used in 2018 was the same that was employed during the 2019 municipal elections which brought the opposition's success in Budapest and several other towns, and Deutsch asks: "Does it mean that their success is due to election fraud, then?"

The MEP stressed that at the Hungarian elections,

"mandates are not decided by election fraud but democracy: the candidate who gets more votes gets elected, as in any serious and well-functioning democracy."

In conclusion, Tamás Deutsch remarked that the conference only serves as a distraction to divert attention away from the suspected election fraud allegedly committed by DK's VP and lawmaker László Varju which resulted in the suspension of his immunity in October. According to the Prosecution's charges, László Varju offered money to independent candidate Imre Horváth before the 2018 general election to get him to withdraw his candidacy. Imre Horváth was the incumbent MP of the constituency who quit MSZP and ran as an independent candidate after DK struck a deal with MSZP to endorse Varju.

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