In order to understand the content and message of this report we need to write about how HCLU’s Electoral Rights Program is structured. The program for the two elections of 2019 was launched in September 2018. By this time, we had begun organizing the eighteen training courses attended by nearly three hundred voters who were willing to be active in making elections legal and fair in their own areas. Several of these civilians later became candidates or - organizationally - nominating organizations in the municipal elections. During the election campaigns, we received several legal aid questions from them, mainly concerning the fairness of the election and equal opportunities for the candidates.
In addition to directly reaching out to active voters, we expanded HCLU's electoral law website “valasztasz.tasz.hu” with information related to municipal and European Parliament elections. Voters, the press, candidates and nominating organizations can access a wide range of legal knowledge and tools through this site. In 2019 the site was accessed 31,000 times and hundreds of sample submissions were downloaded by users.
Besides general legal information, we have received and answered hundreds of individual requests for legal aid via email and phone during the election campaign period. In addition, our law student volunteers who participated in election monitoring observed hundreds of electoral and judicial decisions according to the laid out criteria. Not only did they observe the decisions, but also summarized and helped us evaluate them. On several occasions, we also took legal action in the cases that came to our attention.
We have always acted impartially in providing legal aid and legal representation. On each occasion we contacted every candidate and nominating organization who were entitled to initiate the procedures. In deciding when to provide legal representation we were guided by two aspects: the fairness of the elections and the strategic development of the right to vote.
Our experience gained through legal aid, monitored election decisions and legal representation is at the heart of this report. Of course, we continually followed the press reports related to the elections, the relevant literature, and we also observed the opinions of the election experts. The facts, legal opinions and conclusions from these sources are also included in the report.
Each chapter of the report is followed by recommendations. As we have stated previously, we do not consider it realistic that the legislature or certain public bodies will accept or even consider our recommendations in the near future, unless they are of a strictly technical nature. One of the key lessons of the report is that the legislators are currently not interested in establishing a fair and just electoral system. This is because governing parties with a two-thirds majority in Parliament are able to write election rules unilaterally. Due to the nature of this governing power, these rules contribute to the fragmentation of opposition parties, they enable the state to help the governing parties’ election campaign and make guarantees less forceful in elections. The erosion of guarantees makes it more difficult for public authorities to account for violations in the electoral process.
We do not expect Parliament to substantially improve electoral procedure laws in the short term, but we do hope that our observations deduced from electoral principles and constitutional values will have an impact on law enforcement agencies. We also expect that a future Parliament with a more balanced party structure will examine what problems have been caused by the current electoral procedure law and what solutions exist to mitigate these problems.
HCLU did the most a human rights organization is able to: it acted in the interests of voters, drew conclusions and made its recommendations. The document is widely available and can be considered a record of the age we live in.