Azonnali has learned that on January 19, Pál András, the ministerial commissioner for conducting elections abroad, sent an internal memo to Hungarian embassies and consulates instructing diplomats to ensure that all applicants for the simplified naturalization process who have handed in their paperwork by March 1 pass their citizenship exam by March 8, then notify the ministry.
According to the news site’s sources, this practice is “not illegal, but highly unusual,” as it has been common practice for embassies to wait until they have at least 10-15 successful applicants, then organize a small ceremony where they take the oath of citizenship together.
But the internal memo informs diplomats that citizenship can now be granted on a one-by-one basis, contrary to the ordinary practice. Azonnali‘s source was not aware of any other similar instruction that was issued to Hungarian diplomatic outposts prior to the 2014 or 2018 elections.
The importance of the March 8 deadline is presumably because of a Ministry of Justice decree stating that citizens have until 4pm on March 9 to register themselves on the electoral rolls to be eligible to vote in this spring’s parliamentary elections.
As previously reported, ethnic Hungarians living in neighboring countries can cast their ballot through the mail, but Hungarians who leave the country to work or study abroad do not have this right.
Four years ago, 378,449 Hungarian citizens who did not have a permanent address in Hungary chose to vote by mail. As of January 21 this year, 428,316 ethnic Hungarian citizens are now eligible to vote in this manner. By comparison, Hungary’s 106 electoral districts have around 70,000 voters on average.
Citizens who live abroad and do not have a permanent or temporary Hungarian address, characteristic of Hungary’s large ethnic minority population in neighboring countries, can only vote for the party list of candidates, not for individual candidates.
However, as of January 1 this year, it is relatively easy to establish an address within Hungary by registering online, in which case the person can also vote in the electoral district wherever they register.
In addition, the new “voting tourism” legal amendment no longer makes it illegal to claim any location as one’s official residence, meaning on paper it’s not a crime for anyone to simply register an address wherever they want.
Opposition and election experts fear that this practice will pave the way for large numbers of people to begin registering domestic addresses in close districts, thereby determining the outcome in those constituencies.