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United for Hungary Needs to Choose Nominee for Head of State, Say Opposition Lawyers

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There are fewer than fifty days left until March 10, when the outgoing Parliament will vote on Hungary’s next head of state on the last day of its spring session. A candidate needs to win two-thirds of the vote on the first round to get elected, otherwise a second round runoff will be held between the top two candidates, requiring only a simple majority.

Since ruling Fidesz-KDNP holds 133 out of 199 mandates in the National Assembly, or exactly two-thirds of the seats, their nominee Katalin Novák is widely expected to have no trouble securing enough votes to win the election to be Hungary’s next president.

On the opposition side, a committee headed by lawyer György Magyar was originally formed to organize another primary election in 2022 that would determine their candidate for head of state. However, those plans were later called off when the parties and opposition nominee Péter Márki-Zay withdrew their support after the exhausting primary campaign for prime minister.

A few weekends ago, Péter Márki-Zay announced that he would be the united opposition’s joint candidate for this role, but the six-party United for Hungary coaltion has stayed mum on the issue since then. Neither the central campaign headquarters nor individual politicians provided answers when questioned by Népszava.

But even now, it’s not too late for the opposition to nominate a candidate for head of state, experts told the Hungarian daily. Even a brief campaign would be more beneficial than boycotting the election for head of state, which would be a missed opportunity, they said.

Lawyer Tamás Lattmann, a member of Magyar’s now-defunct Civil Initiative Nomination Committee, told Népszava that failing to nominate a candidate was understandable, but not the best move for the opposition.

Election expert and international lawyer Zoltán Tóth, however, was a little less charitable, saying:

Opposition support began to decline because they missed an opportunity to maintain the dynamism that was gained through the primaries.

But the former head of the election office, like Tamás Lattmann, did not provide an answer to the question as to whether the names brought up in the fall, from Zoltán Király to Tamás Mellár to József Pálinkás, would have been enough for keep the opposition camp engaged. He personally would have preferred former MP and pastor Gábor Iványi for the post. And he also suggested that, like Orbán, he had been thinking of female candidates.

The two legal minds did agree that a candidate should be found who could assume the role of a “shadow president” during the entire five-year mandate of the Fidesz-chosen head of state and point out the mistakes made by Katalin Novák.

Both lawyers also stressed the need for the opposition to stick to its promises of scrapping the current election-by-Parliament method and consider how to implement a direct presidential election, even if the opposition party coalition wins the general elections on April 3.

In any case, Zoltán Tóth considers it important for the opposition to still nominate a joint presidential candidate, because every missed campaign opportunity reduces the importance of the party alliance. Tamás Lattmann added that this would be crucial for Péter Márki-Zay personally, as it would look bad for him as the leader of the united coalition to not be able to get the parties to decide on the matter.

However, Lattmann thinks that the silence from the opposition at the moment on this issue may be connected with composing the joint party list of candidates, which have not yet been made public. Since Népszava‘s sources indicate that the list is ready and will be made public this week, the newspaper suggests it’s likely the opposition’s candidate for head of state will also be revealed at that time. [Népszava]

Posted in 2022 Elections

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