This is how Orban’s campaign machine worked: disciplined delivery of the expected number of votes
Before the elections, in March, we reported that Átlátszó had obtained a table, presumably leaked from governing party Fidesz, on the settlements of parliamentary constituency No.5 of Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén county, which among other things included the target numbers of votes cast for the governing parties per settlement. At the time, we considered that the expectation was very high and that if they could achieve this, it would be a ‘brutal’ result – however, in hindsight, knowing the actual election results, it seems that the mobilisation in the constituency was successful, with some municipalities even exceeding the number governing party votes expected by the party headquarters.
On 16 March, we reported that, according to a leaked database obtained by Átlátszó, governing party Fidesz was preparing statistics covering all settlements in the 5th parliamentary constituency of Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén county, on the voters and supporters of Fidesz MP Richárd Hörcsik. The table showed, among other things, that the party headquarters’ expectations for 2022 were higher than the 2018 result: they were demanding above-average numbers of votes and were preparing for a huge mobilisation in the constituency, which was a battleground.
According to the Excel spreadsheet dated 1 March, local Fidesz mayors, councillors and activists were given a target number of signatures of support to be collected locally, one municipality at a time. The table gives a percentage of how each municipality is performing, and according to our local source, local Fidesz members “will presumably receive praise and public money, or reprimands, on this basis”. Party director Gábor Kubatov also gave a presentation to local Fidesz activists before the April 3 elections.
According to our confidental informant, before the elections, “they actually went to the villages and threatened the public workers that there would be no public work if they did not vote for Hörcsik. In fact, local government representatives, with the exception of trusted public workers, collected databases during working hours and advised less informed people who feared for their jobs, who they should vote for.” The personal data collected through supporting signatures could also have been used for mobilisation on the day of the general election.
An election expert interviewed by Atlatszo stated that the interesting thing about the table is that the party centre’s expectation for 2022 is higher than the 2018 figure. “If they can deliver that, it will be a brutal result,” said the expert, who asked not to be named. Sorting through the data in the table, it is clear that the “expected number of votes” for the ruling party is extremely high, at more than 50% of the total number of voters on the 2018 electoral roll in several villages and small towns in the constituency.
Leaked database indicates that Fidesz is preparing a huge mobilisation in Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén county
According to a database obtained by Átlátszó, Fidesz is preparing statistics covering all settlements in the parliamentary constituency No. 5 of Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén county on the voters and supporters of Fidesz MP Richárd Hörcsik. The table shows that the party HQ’s expectations for 2022 are higher than the 2018 result.
Given the election results, the party HQ’s expectations were not excessive
The Fidesz party centre’s target was realistic in the light of the election results. According to the final result, Mr Richárd Hörcsik (Fidesz-KDNP) won the constituency with 60.6% of the total 45106 valid votes, receiving 27335 of them. In the leaked table, the expected number of votes for the whole constituency was 32131, so Hörcsik and his team achieved on average 85% of the “brutal” target expected by Fidesz. This was more than enough for victory, as the runner-up, Sándor Erdei (Alliance for Hungary), managed to get only 30% of the valid votes in the same constituency.
The difference between the number of votes expected and the number of votes cast for the governing party varied between -22 and +47 percent per settlement: downwards, the actual result deviated more from the party’s target in the towns of the constituency, while upwards, the actual result deviated more from the party’s target in small villages. In four municipalities: Abaújkér, Abaújvár, Szegilong and Zalkod, voters cast the exact same number of votes for the governing parties as they had expected.
Number of votes expected and the number of votes cast for the governing party
According to the election expert we interviewed, who asked not to be named, this is not a particularly good result for Fidesz: “Looking at Borsod 5, there is still some reserve in the system.” In small towns, Fidesz made a more modest gain, virtually matching its previous election result. This is important because it is in the towns that the opposition was able to fight back to some extent, and it is in the towns where the campaign could have the greatest impact – which ended with Fidesz delivering its numbers, while the opposition wavered. In the villages, however, the governing parties marched unopposed, which is why they produced the numbers they did. “These were training matches in the villages, while they won the actual match in the towns.”
At the same time, the votes for Fidesz in this otherwise traditionally right-wing province does not go much above 50 percent of the population: “If a next campaign is conducted with real wage growth, with an abundance of resources, it can go even higher, and if a challenger appears in the villages, it is not necessarily bad for Fidesz. In such a situation, you can prepare for a turnout of around 80 percent” – the election expert told Atlatszo.
On election day, we observed a lot of oddities in the region
On 3 April, the day of the election, Atlatszo reporters went to the Borsod 5 constituency to investigate electoral irregularities. According to locals, vote-buying is common practice in the area, where a vote can be worth up to 20-30 thousand forints, and a large family can earn up to 100 thousand forints if they vote for the right candidate. One poll worker told us that he heard people taking photos of ballot papers in the polling booths. We also heard rumours of cash distribution locations: these were not caught red-handed, but the driver of a black SUV loudly objected to our presence in the field.
On election day in Olaszliszka, a small vilage in the Borsod 5 constituency, Atlatszo reporters met two men who claimed to be foreign election observers, but interestingly did not “observed” at the polling station, but went up to each house walking through the residential areas. When we spoke to them, they told us that they were “observers” from across the border. When asked exactly which organisation they were representing, as they spoke Hungarian, they said that they were from Slovakia, representing the Hungarian Coalition (now called the Hungarian Community Party). We subsequently emailed the Hungarian party in Slovakia to ask why and how many observers they had sent to the Hungarian elections, but they replied that they had not sent any observers at all.
We had similar election day experiences in Borsod constituency 3: in Bánszállás Atlatszo reporters were told that the Fidesz candidates offered five thousand forints, while opposition candidates offered a box of cakes and a bottle of wine for their votes. The public worker we interviewed was also told in the morning who to vote for. Some in the village voted for Fidesz out of conviction: ‘You have to watch the news! If we don’t vote for Orban, the opposition will drag us in the war,” said one local. In Farkaslyuk, the driver of a dark blue Ford fled in an action-packed manner after being embarrassed by our camera. At the polling station, we found that several motorists had been transporting voters in an organised manner continuously since morning.
On the Facebook page “Vote Counters’ Reports“, created by the members of the Electoral Committee delegated by opposition-leaning NGOs, you can read similar travel reports from the constituencies of Borsod: one man reported that in the remote village of Borsod where he was observing, the final result was a 100% Fidesz victory, with no invalid votes or any votes cast for someone else.
Also in the Borsod 3 constituency, Putnok, we observed chain voting on election day: the perpetrators were caught on video by Atlatszo reporters close to a polling station, near the main road, in broad daylight. Gábor Riz, a Fidesz candidate, won all eight constituencies in Putnok, with 58.9% of the votes in the entire constituency.
This is how chain voting looks like: voters cast their ballots through the window of a car parked near voting station in Putnok
In the video captured by Átlátszó, the perpetrators committed the fraud in broad daylight near a voting station on a…
Across the country, external observers have recorded a large number of incidents of similar suspected electoral fraud in the 2022 parliamentary elections. In most cases, vote-buying was suspected, with reports of poor, usually Roma, voters being transported and paid. However, without a more serious, systemic police or prosecution investigation, it is unlikely that there will be any legal consequences for election fraud practices outside the polling station.
Several incidents of suspected electoral fraud were recorded by observers during Sunday’s parliamentary elections in various regions of Hungary. Most cases point to vote-buying, largely involving the impoverished Romani population. Despite the reports, unless the police or the prosecution launches in-depth investigations about each case – which normally does not happen – it is unlikely that there will be any consequences.
Written and translated by Tamás Bodoky. Additional reporting by Zita Szopkó, Zsuzsa Bodnár, Szilvia Zsilák, Bence Bodoky, and András Hont. Infographics by Krisztián Szabó. The Hungarian version of this story is available here.