Voting fraud in Baja? Most likely

Yesterday there was a by-election in the city of Baja, the hometown of Gordon Bajnai. Baja’s population hasn’t changed much in the last century. It hovers around 35,000. Baja is considered to be a rather conservative city. The last time there was a socialist mayor of the town was in 2002. Since then Fidesz has easily won in the city at the municipal elections. The current mayor of Baja is Róbert Zsigó, who seems to be the latest “star” of Fidesz. Although he has been a member of parliament since 1998, he was pretty much of an unknown quantity until recently when he was picked to be one of the growing number of Fidesz spokesmen.

Baja had to hold a by-election because one of its council members, Tünde Bálint, a lawyer, died. The three most important opposition parties (MSZP, Együtt-PM, and DK) supported a single candidate, Melinda Teket, a young reporter at the local independent television station. With Baja being the hometown of Gordon Bajnai and the town considered to be a stronghold of Fidesz, this particular by-election became something of a test case. Many people thought that if Melinda Teket wins, it will be an indication of what might happen at next year’s election.

So, let’s take a look at the results of past municipal elections in this particular district. The adult population of this district is currently 2,913. Of these only 31.65% cast a ballot this year, which for a by-election is not actually that low a number. In 2010 Tünde Bálint won handily, receiving 58.9% of the votes. The situation was the same in 2006 when the Fidesz candidate got 63% of the votes. In 2002 when an MSZP candidate won the district, he barely squeaked by. He received 309 votes against his Fidesz opponent’s 294 votes.

Csaba Kovács, a close friend of Róbert Zsigó who otherwise works as a security man at the local German-language high school, was Teket’s opponent. In the end he won the election by getting 61 votes more than his opponent. Kovács received 467 votes and Teket 406. The rest went to Jobbik and to LMP.

voting fraud2It is worth taking a closer look at the figures. There were five polling stations. Teket won in three in close contests (184 opposed to 173, 137 as opposed to 133, and 41 as opposed to 28) and lost one with a 21 vote difference. But then there was the fifth (Bokodi út 62) where Teket got 29 votes and Csaba Kovács got 97!  Clearly it was in this district that Teket lost the election.

Együtt 2014-PM already complained to the local election committee on Sunday when one of its activists outside of the Bokodi Street polling station was threatened by two people who told him not to try to observe their activities because he will see what will happen to him. The activist claims that these two people kept bringing voters to the polling station by car. That in itself is illegal according to Hungarian law, but I suspect that this is not the only thing that these Fidesz activists did.

Since then we learned that this particular polling station is in one of the poorest parts of Baja, which is largely Roma inhabited. The leader of the local Roma self-governing body was entrusted with the organization of the voting. Two young fellows transported the voters back and forth. Origo has a short video on which one can hear one of the drivers apologizing for the fact that this is his third trip and he just hopes that this is okay. He is being assured by the Fidesz activists that he can come fifty times if he wants to. While this was going on outside, inside apparently the wife of the head of the local Roma organization kept updating somebody or somebodies who had cast a vote already and who had not.

It is possible that the transportation (and perhaps compensation) of the Gypsy inhabitants of the district was not the only violation of the electoral law. Those who were getting out the vote most likely wanted to make sure that voters were actually casting ballots for the “right” candidate. It seems, according to some reports, that so-called “chain-voting” could take care of that. I’m not 100% sure how this is being done, but I assume it resembles the college tricks of the 1950s when all exams were oral (and when students weren’t graded on a bell curve). Three students were called into the professor’s room to take the exam. Each student was supposed to pick a question written down on a small piece of paper. Each piece of paper had a number. These students pulled not one but two slips of paper and thus could decide which one was more to their liking. The second slip of paper was hidden and taken out to someone in the waiting group who naturally had plenty of time to prepare his answer. The new student pulled a question but gave the number of the smuggled-out question and again hid the one he just pulled. And on it went.

I don’t know what the National Election Committee will do, but I suspect that it will be difficult to ignore the issue. The fraud, however deep it went, seems far too blatant. But quite aside from the possible fraud at this particular polling station, given the past electoral history of the town and this particular district the candidate of MSZP-E14-DK did remarkably well. Especially if one considers the extremely dirty Fidesz campaign.

Fidesz also believed that this election was important and in fact Róbert Zsigó called this election an important indication of whether the horrible socialists can return or not. Well, I guess without the Roma vote most likely they would have. I suspect that even Viktor Orbán feared an MSZP-E14-DK victory because in the last minute he cancelled an appearance in Baja. Most likely it was at that point that the decision was made to give the Fidesz candidate a little extra help.

In a small election a few votes can decide the outcome, and some would argue that a similar fraud couldn’t have a significant impact on a national election. I would argue that this is not true. The number of the parliamentary districts is not all that large and, since 50% plus 1 vote decides who wins, in a close election every vote counts. Therefore, I do hope that the National Electoral Committee will investigate the possible fraud that occurred at this particular polling station.

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10 comments

  1. Fat chance!
    There will be no discernible effect on the Electoral Commission.
    The first signs are already clearly visible.
    When the socialists complained that the voters were illegally ferried to the polling stations, the Commission answered that it is probably so, but since it is impossible to determine in who’s favour was it done, they rejected the complaint.
    This is, of course, completely natural if we consider that all the people sitting on the Electoral Commissions are Fidesz appointees. They only do the job for which they were sent there: helping the Fidesz in their reelection efforts.

  2. OT – Talked today with a friend of mine in Budapest who teaches part-time at an elementary school. A month ago she was excited to hear she is getting a pay-raise. Today she received a memo stating that she will not have a raise, but her work load has been increased by 50%. They cite her lack of a teaching degree as the reason. She does have an undergraduate diploma. They gave her the option of studying for a teaching certificate at a cost of 700,000 forint. Since she is part-time her raise would not be the full amount. Bottom-line is the raise would take nearly a decade to pay for her certificate.

  3. I will sound terrible … But somebody should start explaining the Roma population, that in a year, their new government may be a coalition with the JOBBIK. So if they want water in Ózd, they better watch out who they vote for.

  4. Mutt:

    a giant percentage of the roma (but also of the non-roma) are functionally illiterate in Hungary. They as well as their parents, neighbors and relatives, have no clue whatsoever of parties, constitution, politics. They don’t even listen to radio or watch Hungarian tv news programs, although they do watch reality shows.

    If somebody comes from Fidesz, because they do however understand that Fidesz is in power and people should fear the powerful, they will do anything, especially if they get some money. That is the highest level of sophistication you can get from half of the population.

    You may be surprised that many romas voted Jobbik in 2010 as romas are not homogenous and many more middle-class-ish roma resent the poor and uneducated ones who give a bad name to romas in general. Not only that, but the middle-class-ish/assimilated romas see that many poor ones have no intention of conforming to the majority society or educate themselves or be more forward-looking in their thinking.

    Many romas live only in the present, as it were, and have no conception of the future in the modern sense. Romas were forcibly settled about 60 years ago in Hungary and before that they were completely itinerant with little connection to (and thus investment in) any particular locality and had no life-strategies in the modern sense (get an education, get a job, advance and earn more, get a house, think about pension and save etc.). They had strategies, but those were completely different from what we call mainstream or modern strategies. Anyway, they are not logical in the way you would want them to be. In addition, it is a human nature to accept money now for the votes and then disregard the possibility that maybe Jobbik will get to power. How would it be worse from any other day? They will deal with it then.

    I completely agree that Orbán’s speech was cancelled in Baja because they realized that Fidesz might lose in Baja. If Fidesz had lost despite Orbán’s presence it would have been an extremely sore brand on Orbán and would have meant that he is not omnipotent. His image must be protected from any potential failures — he must remain the very symbol of victory.

    I am sure that given Fidesz extremely sophisticated campaign machinery, they are ready to use any and all methods to keep in power. And what if there is some video or audio record? Well, who gives a s**t? The 10% kick-back tape in Szombathely or the trafik-mutyi tape at Szekszárd? Nothing happened, because with Fidesz you know that they will protect you no matter what.

    It will be a dirty campaign from Fidesz and the Electoral Commission (consisting of only trusted Fideszniks) will not do anything, as (in this case) there will be no evidence for all 60-100 “special” votes. OK, you got evidence on the video for a fraud with 10 votes, it will make no difference. They are lawyers and will make sure that the matter will be solved.

  5. @tappanch. Greetings! “The Court approved Orban’s 2011 cancellation of the retirement of thousands of people today.”

    What was that again? I forgot what was the background/context.

  6. Well, if anyone still have had some illusions about Hungary may reside in Europe and living by European norms and values, it’s hight time to reconsider.

    If we are at it, just as well we give some thoughts to the methods and techniques used in the campaign, or the political communication in general. To me these events are the clear verifications of the ruthlessness what clearly define the Fidesz-way, and the total disregard of the law, – even their own making – they will do anything and everything to keep the power and the continuous access to the bounty.

    Does anyone still remember the “oszt jónapot” event, when His Highness Orbán instructed his activists in person to override the mutual agreement and even the law: keep on agitating and plastering banners and such, even during the campaign silence?
    It was even recorded, when he said: “…and if there any problem arises, our lawyers will take care of it, and that’s the end of it…” – and guess what, no any consequences!

    I hope, that this incident acts as a wake up call to the so called “opposition” and makes them realise, just with whom and what they’re dealing wit.
    There is no place for soft talking lukewarm pussies on the lead, for Pete’s sake, – they will be eaten alive – no, this event calls for a fundamentally different approach.
    The sooner the better!

  7. “but since it is impossible to determine in who’s favour was it done, they rejected the complaint.”

    Perhaps someone should tell them that it just does not matter in who’s favour it was done! I do wonder whether they have not understood the principle of fair voting. Who was done harm to is also interesting, but the most relevant issue here is that elections should follow some principles, in this case that people vote personally, individually, by ballot, and not as part of the forced labour scheme paid at minimum wage rates per hour. What makes it so difficult to apprehend that cui bono is an interesting question but that it somehow misses the point when it is the public interest (in fair elections) that is considered equally suspect as the interest of a few in twisting the public sphere to their (financial and other) benefit.

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