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Preempting Claims Of A Rigged Election In Hungary

Western media is already poised to try and invalidate the results of Hungary's election.

Today, Hungarians will head to the polls to determine if Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz party will retain control of the Hungarian government. While the polls are close, it appears likely Fidesz will have a majority yet again, and Orbán will enter his fourth consecutive term as Prime Minister. Sensing this is the case, the united opposition has taken pages from Stacey Abrams’ playbook to delegitimize the election—even before the votes have begun being counted. Of course, so-called elite institutions, whether it be western media outlets, the large apparatus of non-governmental organizations (many funded by Hungarian-born billionaire George Soros), or other pro-European institutions, have already taken the opposition’s word at face value. Thus, even before the votes are counted later tonight, I think it’s proper to address a number of false narratives about a rigged election that I’m sure will appear in due course.

Claims of voter fraud from the opposition have already found their way into the pages of some of the West’s most prominent outlets. In mid-February, the Economistpublished a piece titled, “As Orbán runs for re-election, Hungary’s opposition fears fraud.” The subtitle: “They have some reason to.” The reason there could be legitimacy to the opposition’s claims, the Economist says, is because of the various overhauls to the electoral system:

In 2014 the share of MPs elected from single-member constituencies was raised to 106 out of the 199 seats in parliament. (The rest are elected by proportional representation.) Single-member districts tend to favour Fidesz, the biggest party—the more so as they have often been gerrymandered. In 2018 Fidesz won 91 of them. Overall, it translated just under half of the popular vote into a two-thirds majority in parliament.

It’s rather funny that western journalists are only now concerned about large-scale electoral reforms when it means liberals won’t get their way. Unlike, say, in the lead up to the 2020 presidential election in the U.S. where national and state bureaucrats, with the help of activist judges, used Covid-19 to fundamentally change the voting process in their respective states. At least the reforms to the Hungarian election system were undertaken with the consent of the people via the popular mandate Fidesz was given and completely legal under Hungarian law.

Other activists have recirculated their claims made in the wake of the 2018 election in which, because of a heavily divided opposition, Fidesz got about 48 percent of the vote and 133 out of 199 seats. Nevertheless, Zsofia Banuta, one of the leaders of Unhack Democracy, said the 2018 election was “the dirtiest of the last 30 years, since the end of communism.” Unhack Democracy, headquartered in Belgium, is a member of the European Platform for Democratic Elections (EPDE), a left-wing activist group parading as election watchdogs. The EPDE is backed by the European Commission, the German Foreign Ministry, as well as the Greens in the European Parliament.

It appears Unhack Democracy, and institutions like it, have flexed their E.U. connections. For only the second time in its history, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) will have a full-scale monitoring mission for an election in an E.U. country. Even prior to the election, the OSCE filed a 16-page preliminary report to Hungary’s National Election Committee (NVB). The OSCE report takes aim at Hungary’s campaign finance laws and Hungary’s media landscape, despite the fact that Blick, an Axel Springer owned digital outlet, as well as Telex, 444, and other anti-Fidesz outlets retain a strong presence. But the OSCE report is nothing more than a scatter-shot of alleged problems (the NVB found no violations after reviewing the report) to detract that the report finds very little issue with the actual voting process.

Furthermore, Hungary’s National Election Office has trained vast numbers of poll workers, stress-tested polling places prior to the election, and is hosting just under 900 election observers to ensure election law is followed.

Based on the OSCE’s findings thus far, not even Telex could publish an article claiming voter fraud. “No major act of election fraud, just a bunch of dirty little tricks,” the Telex headline read as left-wing journalists furiously grasped at straws. It turns out OSCE intervention in Hungary’s election wasn’t the silver bullet they were hoping for.

From my conversations with over fifty voters in Budapest, which heavily leans for the opposition, not a single person told me they were concerned their vote would not be counted properly.

Liberals also might try and claim that the result of the referendum to support Hungary’s recent reforms to their Child Protection Act on teaching children LGBTQ ideologies—and the sex education that goes along with it—in schools is evidence of election tampering or voter suppression.

But this is a consequence of the left-wing parties in the opposition, as well as supportive NGOs, instructing voters to invalidate the referendum by voting on it. Their hope is that low turnout plus invalid votes (from liberals, intentionally, and conservatives, unintentionally) will result in a majority of all the votes cast on the referendum being invalid. Nothing says pro-democracy quite like telling your supporters not to vote.

Because of this invalidation strategy, while Fidesz may only receive between 40 to 50 percent of the popular vote, the referendum will likely be denied by a much larger margin, if it ends up being valid. 

It appears opposition voters don’t think this is a very good plan, however, because not a single one of the dozens of opposition voters I spoke to in Budapest today said they intentionally voted invalidly on the LGBTQ referendum. No one I’ve talked to, conservative or liberal, believes the LGBTQ referendum will pass in liberals’ favor.

Don’t put it past the opposition to concoct some narrative about a rigged election even if they lose both the referendum and the parliamentary majority by comparing the outcomes between the two. If the referendum is valid with a wide margin, but Fidesz’s margin does not match, then either the referendum was rigged all along, or Fidesz altered the parliamentary votes to keep power. If the margins are the same or inverted—which is very unlikely—then Fidesz rigged the election even more than the already-rigged LGBTQ referendum, or Fidesz manufactured votes in order to make sure its referendum passed.

The narrative will always be lose-lose for Orbán and Fidesz in western liberal media. But who cares about western media narratives when everyday Hungarians have tuned them out. American conservatives should take note: actually delivering for your voters, rather than courting media, is enough to get re-elected time and time again.

about the author

Bradley Devlin is a Staff Reporter for The American Conservative. Previously, he was an Analysis Reporter for the Daily Caller, and has been published in the Daily Wire and the Daily Signal, among other publications that don't include the word "Daily." He graduated from the University of California, Berkeley with a degree in Political Economy. You can follow Bradley on Twitter @bradleydevlin.

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