magyar4_JOHN THYSPOOLAFP via Getty Images_orban John Thys/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Hungary’s Manipulated Election

Hungary's authoritarian, Russia-aligned prime minister, Viktor Orbán, has now secured a fourth consecutive term and parliamentary supermajority in an election that was neither free nor fair. For the European Union, the question of what to do about the full-blown autocracy in its midst has become more urgent than ever.

BUDAPEST – Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has just won a fourth term. In a democracy, such a victory would reflect the decision of the voters to whom the incumbent is accountable. But in Hungary, the European Union’s only full-blown autocracy, the outcome merely reflects the incumbent’s manipulation of the electoral process. With Orbán securing his fourth consecutive supermajority, Hungary has clearly become a country where elections are decided before election day.

To be sure, classic electoral fraud through falsifying the vote count was probably limited, owing to organized civil-society efforts to ensure that opposition delegates were present in every polling station. If there was massive fraud, it would have been in the mail votes from abroad, many of which were collected by organizations connected to Orbán’s party, Fidesz. The discovery of burned opposition ballot papers in Transylvania helps to explain why over 90% of mail-in votes have favored Fidesz in the last two elections.

This was not the first manipulated election in Hungary. After Fidesz won its first supermajority in 2010, it changed the electoral law unilaterally to boost its own future results (through gerrymandering and new rules awarding extra seats for big wins in individual districts). With these changes in place, Fidesz retained its supermajority in 2014, even though it received 8% less of the vote than it had in 2010.