Did the police become a tool in the election campaign?

While the police descended on András Pikó's 8th District campaign team because of a photo that showed nothing more than activists leaning over papers, the clearly legible photos made of the “Kubatov List” did not merit an investigation. On Election Day, opposition activists chased groups of people presumably involved in the organized transport of electors and even found a packet that looked like a bunch of ballot papers in a taxi, but the police had not acted. Why did they react to these situations differently?

There have been cases during the municipal election campaign where the police acted almost immediately on suspicion of electoral fraud. On Election Day, however, the news reported the reluctance of the police to take action even in the event of obviously fraudulent behavior. This distinction is grossly illegal and may even affect the outcome of the elections. The police are a government body under the control of the Minister of the Interior, but the law does not allow the Minister to treat candidates or voters differently based on their support or criticism of government policy.

This is not the first time that a public body, which should operate independently of politics, intervenes in the political competition. Last year, audits and fines by the State Audit Office significantly influenced parliamentary elections. No problem, thinks the democratically-minded voter, since the police are supervised by the prosecution. If the police favor the government, then the independent prosecutor's office will put it in order. Yeah, no!

The system of power that has been built up in recent years is very complex, made up of a number of small pieces: the propaganda media that was deployed, the constituency borders that were changed, and the “winner-compensation” that was introduced are as important elements of this distorted rule of law as the occupation of independent institutions. Since 2010, the HCLU has been saying again and again that the independence of state institutions is not just frills, nor it is not intended for the entertainment of human rights defenders. Independent institutions should serve to prevent the government from becoming overpowering.

The result of the municipal elections should not fool anyone. The fact that the government machinery did not work perfectly for this once does not mean that it does not exist. Still, we keep striving for a free country governed by fair rules.

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