Hungarian Elections 2014: Turnout and the Impact of the Electoral System

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Using the official election results and its own reasearch Republikon Instutite analyzed the results of the Hungarian national elections in 2014. In this article the most important findings are summed up regarding the turnout and the impact of the different elements of the new election system.

The turnout of the parliamentary election in 2014 is 61.73 percent, which is less, though not by a great percentage, from the turnout in 2010. By analysing proportions by counties, one may conclude that the decrease in turnout was a national tendency – there was not one county, where a larger number of voters cast their ballots than in 2010. Taking both elections into consideration, one must highlight Budapest, where the turnout is far higher than the national average, almost 70 percent. What is more, there was no downturn in the number of voters casting their ballots compared to the previous elections.

In the north-western part of the country the population proved to be more active than the national average, but the turnout did not reach 64 percent in any of the north-western counties. A sort of opposite may be noticed in the eastern part of the country. In Eastern counties only 57-59 percent of the eligible voters cast their ballots to one of the parties. The overall picture therefore shows a balanced turnout throughout the country, with the capital differing from the rest of the country in this and many other respects.

The number of voters casting ballots at the embassies grew exponentially: while in 2006 and 2010 6-8 thousand people voted abroad, this number exceeded 24 thousand people in 2014. 24 thousand votes hardly make a difference – single-member constituency results were barely influenced and on the national list they also represented only one third of the mandates on the national list, too. A far greater group of voters in 2014 were the out-of-country votes, whose ballots arrived via letters: these represented 129 thousand (party list) votes1.

In the elections of April 6th, with a 62% turnout, Fidesz-KDNP got 44.87, MSZP-Együtt-PM-DK-Liberálisok 25.57, Jobbik 20.22 while LMP 5.34 percent of the votes. These party-list results represent 133 parliamentary seats for the Fidesz-KDNP party alliance, 38 for the five-party left-wing alliance, 23 parliamentary seats for Jobbik (Movement for a Better Hungary) and 5 for LMP (Politics Can Be Different). All this indicates that Fidesz-KDNP received 1.5 times more mandates than it would have based on a proportionate allocation. The other three formations, though to a different extent, but also lost the elections, since their proportion of mandates is less than their proportion of votes. The biggest loss is that of the LMP’s: their 0.47 coefficient of proportionality reveals they have not received half as many parliamentary seats as they should have based on the votes they received: this is the lowest coefficient since 1990, in other words, the mandate allocation mechanism of the electoral system has never been to a disadvantage of a party to this extent.

 

Proportion of votes

Mandates in single-member constituencies

National mandates

All mandates

Mandate proportion

Coefficient of proportionality

FIDESZ-KDNP

44,87%

96

37

133

66,83%

1,49

MSZP-EGYÜTT-PM-DK-MLP

25,57%

10

28

38

19,10%

0,75

JOBBIK

20,22%

0

23

23

11,56%

0,57

LMP

5,34%

0

5

5

2,51%

0,47

Other

4%

0

0

0

0

All

100%

106

93

199

100,00%

19,96%

 

Election results, 2014

Hungarians voted according to fundamentally new rules in 2014: the number of parliamentary seats was reduced from 386 to 199, and parallel to this, the number of single-member constituency mandates was somewhat increased. In the system operating until 2010 176 out of 386 mandates (46% of all the seats) could be obtained through single-member constituency mandates, whereas in the new electoral system 106 seats out of 199 can be achieved this way (53% out of all parliamentary seats).

All this requires designing a new constituency map, which gives rise to gerrymandering, an opportunity which the two third Fidesz-KDNP majority seized. Namely, it can be demonstrated that when delineating the constituency boundaries, Fidesz-leaning constituencies became typically smaller, the swing districts were made more stable and the previously left-leaning districts were reinforced. This type of constituency map redesigning would have helped Fidesz in case of a draw, but in cases of such a large scale victory (45-26) as has happened now, constituency boundaries bear no significance – the leftist opposition would have reached the same result by changing the proportions.

Another important change is the replacement of a two-round system by a one-round one, in which relative majority is enough to win. In this election, the future of the mandate was decided on in one round, this is why it could happen that in the district with the closest tie, one of the candidates won a seat in the parliament with 31.39% of the votes. Another proportion tells a lot of this election: if the two-round system were still in order, we would be having a second round in 85 out of 106 districts. Namely, only in 21 districts did the winner gain more than 50% of the votes. Due to the one-round system, one needed far less votes than before to win a mandate.

One of the elements of the new electoral system with the greatest impact, the system of compensation of the winner fragment votes, is also connected to the single-member constituencies. According to this system, the winner candidate in an individual constituency may add difference between the number of votes they received and the number of vote received by the second-place candidate to the totals for their party lists for use in calculating party-list mandates. The previous system acknowledged only compensation of the loser: ballots cast on loser candidates were put on the national lists and turned into a mandate via a proportion-making formula.

Another novelty of the 2014 election was the out-of-country voters. Although not even the government communication talked about voting rights when passing the dual citizenship act in 2010, by the time they accepted the new electoral system, the government decided that Hungarians from outside the country borders may vote for candidates on national lists (but not those on single-member constituencies) via letters, after registering. This represented about 128 thousand votes, half of which came from Romania. The distribution of the out-of-country votes exceeded all expectations: there was a consensus among analysts concerning the majority of the votes cast for Fidesz-KDNP, but 95% can be considered extraordinary.

 

Party-list votes

Out-of-country votes

Loser fragment votes

Winner fragment votes

Fidesz-KDNP

2 142 142

122 588

176 183

766 708

MSZP-Együtt-PM-DK-Liberálisok

1 289 309

1 495

1 119 320

22 374

Jobbik

1 017 550

2 926

1 000 636

-

LMP

268 840

573

244 191

-

 

Votes for the national list, by parties

One can easily recognise that the two new regulations, the compensation of the winner and the right to vote given to out-of-country Hungarians, supported Fidesz-KDNP in reaching a better mandate proportion: without the compensation of the winner it would have had six less, without the out-of-country votes it would have had one less vote on national lists.

 

Party-list mandates…

Mandates with current regulation

Without compensation of the winner

Without the votes from beyond the borders

Without compensation of the winner and votes from beyond the borders

Fidesz-KDNP

37

31

36

30

MSZP-Együtt-PM-DK-Liberálisok

28

31

27

31

Jobbik

23

25

23

26

LMP

5

6

6

6

 

Development of allocation party-list mandates, by filtering different impacts

Election in 2014 brought new rules not only with respect to establishing the results, but also regarding candidate nomination. Both the simplification of candidate nomination and the previously mentioned financial incentive led to a record number of parties, some not likely to have an actual support of the society: altogether 18 parties compiled national lists. And this caused far more confusion in the election than fulfilling its real function of serving as sort of a filter.

It is clear that the electoral system after 2002 is strongly selective: there were fewer “lost” votes that did not get into the parliament, what is more, the largest majority of these ballots were cast for one particular party. Compared to this, in 2014 there was no such leading party: the 14 parties that did not get into the parliament altogether received 3.6% of the votes.

In the 2014 election Fidesz-KDNP reached a result which – in all not purely proportional systems – would have led to a majority. In the electoral system between 1990 and 2010, however, this result would not have led to a two third majority, this was achieved by a conscientious change of the electoral regulation. Without the compensation of the winner or without the out-of-country votes Fidesz-KDNP would have only had a simple majority. The repeated two third majority enables Fidesz-KDNP to change the electoral regulation again, which represents a huge instability factor in the future of Hungarian elections.

1 We are accounting for the role of votes by letter in the last section of the study, the one about the impact of the electoral system

Republikon Institute