BUDAPEST–Most ethnic Hungarians with recently obtained dual citizenship and living mainly in neighboring countries have by now been asked by the government to register for next year’s parliamentary elections, the first-ever poll where those living permanently outside the country will be able to vote in large numbers.
The national election committee OVB sent over 233,000 letters to recent dual citizens living in nearby countries. Austria, Slovakia and Ukraine aren’t included as they prohibit dual citizenship, OVB President Ilona Palffy said Wednesday.
About 8 million eligible voters live within Hungary. By including those abroad with dual nationality the government estimates the number of potential voters could increase by 500,000 ahead of the 2014 spring election. No exact date has been set yet for next year’s polls.
Dual citizens currently number about 300,000, Ms. Palffy said, noting that citizenship oaths are being taken continuously.
Non-resident Hungarians may only vote by mail rather than in person. They will only be allowed to vote for parties while resident Hungarians also cast votes for individual candidates representing their local constituencies.
While Ms. Palffy said no election can be 100% tamper-free, she tried to dispel some political parties’ worries that dual-citizens’ votes could be doctored when registered. Letters with votes that arrive open won’t be valid, she said.
“Representatives of the parties may be present both when the voters are checked against the registry and when the letters with the votes are being opened,” she said.
“We can’t make sure that the same person who registered to vote will cast the given vote. And you can’t post a guard next to each mailbox,” she said.
A conservatively estimated 2.59 million ethnic Hungarians live in neighboring Slovakia, Romania, Serbia, Ukraine, Austria, Croatia and Slovenia. Ancestors of many of them found themselves outside Hungary when the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy collapsed after World War I and borders shifted in 1920.
Hungary’s Fidesz party government, which scored a landslide victory in the 2010, kept its election pledge when it eased the administrative process the same year for granting citizenship to foreigners born to Hungarian parents or with assumed Hungarian ancestry.
The move has sparked criticism within Hungary and in some countries with large Hungarian ethnic minorities such as Slovakia.
Posted: July 31, 2013, 6:46 pm
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