Constitutional Court Decision on Registration of Voters - Half Success

The HCLU agrees with the Constitutional Court's decision that pre-registration of voters residing in Hungary is an unnecessary legal restriction. In order to ensure universal and equal suffrage not only the relevant law, but the Fundamental Law of Hungary itself should also be reviewed.

The decision made by the Constitutional Court rightly concludes that the introduction of pre-registration of voters for election violates constitutional principles. Since there is an operating population-registration system, the requirement is an unnecessary restriction. The Constitutional Court’s present decision reflects the HCLU’s and a number of other human rights groups’ previous opinions.

The HCLU also welcomes that on the basis of the Constitutional Court’s decision, the voting rights of homeless individuals living in Hungary must also be guaranteed. We also agree with the fact that the Constitutional Court annulled restrictions concerning freedom of the press during the election campaign.

However, the HCLU calls attention to the fact that today's Constitutional Court decision does not create democratic conditions for elections. The biggest obstacle is the Fundamental Law itself, which lacks fair electoral system principles, and a number of its regulations are in violation of unified and equal voting rights. For example, the Fundamental Law allows for the deprivation of voting rights of citizens living with intellectual disability on discretionary grounds. Following the adoption of the Fundamental Law, the two-thirds parliamentary majority further reduced the chances of fair elections (i.g. election of National Election Committee members, the gerrymandering of election districts, etc.) The issue of registration was just one element.

Based on the above, it is the HCLU’s opinion that even after the Constitutional Court’s decision, there is still a significant risk that democratic principles will not prevail during the next elections. In addition, governing party politicians have already previously declared their intent to amend the Fundamental Law in order to override the Constitutional Court’s decision. In the coming months, a lot depends on the President of the Republic and the Constitutional Court.

The President of the Republic could prove that he is an independent public official if in the future and in order to remedy all significant constitutional problems, he were to ask the Constitutional Court for Ex ante Review of Conformity with the Fundamental Law (Preliminary Norm Control) not only with the approval and upon the appeal of the Prime Minister, but by his own choice.

It is justified for the Constitutional Court to leave behind the notion that the current Fundamental Law is a unified system and merits unconditional protection, since it is a blend of democratic and anti-democratic regulations. With current and expected constitutional amendments, only the number of antidemocratic regulations will increase. It is the Constitutional Court’s duty to review and annul such future constitutional amendments, and other unconstitutional provisions, based on democratic principles and international standards.

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Electoral Procedural Rules Violate Suffrage

Constituents who have residency in Hungary, but work or study abroad for a prolonged period of time, and consequently are not going to be in Hungary on the day of the parliamentary elections, may only vote at the foreign embassies. In certain cases, this might necessitate a journey of several hundred kilometres, and entail considerable costs, or even prevent them from voting. At the same time, constituents who are going to stay abroad on the day of the election as well, but who do not have residency in Hungary, can vote by post, which is cheap, simple and convenient. HCLU, representing a constituent working abroad, has contested these discriminative rules at the Constitutional Court.