About 300.000 ballots were distributed by mail to Hungarian citizens who are residents of Romania prior to the April 3rd elections. Normally the bulletins should have been returned to the Hungarian Electoral Authority also via regular mail. However this has not always happened: a very visible information campaign over the last week encouraged the Hungarian citizens to avoid the regular (Romanian) postal services and use “alternatives” instead.
This info campaign “don’t trust the postman” was initiated and paid by the Erdelyi Magyar Neppart Tanacs (EMNT), an association from Cluj, and carried out through traditional media, mainly Radio GaGa and some local TV stations. The message was also spread online by various influencers and political actors, such as the Hungarian Popular Party (a small political formation supporting Viktor Orban). The activists of this party and other volunteers collected the voting ballots and delivered them in person to the Hungarian consulates in Transylvania (see picture below). Voters were also encouraged to vote in the offices of the EMNT association.
The benefits of this arrangement for FIDESZ are twofold. First, the info campaign builds on the broader theme of distrust in the Romanian public institutions – in this case, the postal services – which dovetails nicely with one of the main narratives of Orban’s electoral campaign. Second, the voting process may be controlled by members of local political organizations who lean predominantly towards FIDESZ.
The problem is, big bags with voting bulletins were found two days ago in a landfill near Târgu Mureş, an area with a high concentration of Hungarian population. Some of them were stamped on the candidate Marki-Zay and many of them were partially burned. It is not clear if there is a link between these voting ballots and the process of collecting the votes privately, mentioned above. The police opened an investigation.
"Election Monitoring in Hungary and its Diaspora" research is conducted with the support of the International Republican Institute's Beacon Project. It is conducted in Hungary and select countries with a significant Hungarian diaspora: Romania, Serbia, Slovakia and Ukraine. The opinions expressed are solely those of the authors and do not reflect those of IRI.