Hungary’s parliamentary election system 101

It’s less than 24 hours until the voting booths open early in the morning this Sunday, and our electoral system is once again generating some conversation – and misinformation. So here’s a brief rundown on how it works.

On April 3, Hungarian voters will go to the polls to elect a new parliament. The National Assembly has 199 members, 106 of them are elected in single-member electoral districts and the remaining 93 come from national party lists.

Parliamentary elections are held in Hungary every four years. According to the Fundamental Law, the general election of members of parliament must be held in April or May of the fourth year following the election of the previous parliament.

Members of parliament are elected by voters on the basis of universal and equal suffrage, by direct and secret ballot, in an election that ensures the free expression of the will of the electorate in a manner laid down by a cardinal law. According to the Fundamental Law, every Hungarian citizen of adult age has the right to vote and to be elected in the election of members of parliament.

Members of parliament elected in single-member electoral districts are elected via a single-round, majoritarian election system, similar to what they have in the United Kingdom or the system used in the U.S. congressional elections. The candidate who receives the highest number of valid votes cast in a constituency, irrespective of the number of people present, is elected to that seat.

Voters residing in Hungary can vote for a single-mandate constituency candidate and a party list. A voter residing in Hungary and registered as a voter belonging to a national minority may vote for one single-mandate constituency candidate and the list of his/her nationality, or, failing this, for one party list. A voter who is not a resident in Hungary may vote for one party list.

If a voter living abroad has or maintains a Hungarian address, he or she may vote for one single-mandate constituency candidate and one party list at the representation abroad. If they have no Hungarian address or cease to have one, they can vote by post for a party list.

When voters enter the polling place, they must present identification documents and, once verified, will be handed a ballot and head into the voting booth. On the ballot, the voter places two marks, one next to his or her preferred parliamentary candidate running in that electoral district and a second one for his or her preferred national party list. Candidates for parliament must win a plurality of the vote to win a seat in the National Assembly. For those parties that receive more than 5 percent of the party vote, the remaining 93 seats are distributed using the so-called D’Hondt method, that is, proportionately to the number of votes they received for the national party lists. (For a more detailed description, see here,)

On election day, voting begins at 6 a.m., and ballots can be cast until 7 p.m. when voting booths close and the counting of votes begins.

Preliminary results can be expected from around 9 p.m. from some constituencies. Between 11 p.m. and midnight, there is a good chance that we will have a close-to-final picture of the results.