Race for Budapest mayor not over yet, recount of invalid ballots ordered

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The National Election Committee (NVB) has decided to do a recount of the invalid ballots cast for the mayoral candidates in Budapest in Sunday’s municipal elections. The decision was taken after one of the candidates, Dávid Vitézy personally lodged an appeal with the Budapest Election Office challenging the result of Sunday’s mayoral election, according to which he lost to Gergely Karácsony by only 324 votes.

There were a total of 24,592 invalid votes counted at the mayoral elections in Budapest, 76 times the difference between Gergely Karácsony and Dávid Vitézy, which is why the candidate backed by LMP and the governing parties submitted the appeal on Wednesday afternoon.

After a longer than usual debate, the committee decided to order

  • the opening of sealed ballot boxes collected from all polling stations in the capital,
  • and the inspection and recount of invalid ballots cast in the election for mayor.

The current procedure is non-litigious, so it is up to the National Election Committee to decide whether they will order a recount or a rerun. Their decision may be challenged by both Karácsony and Vitézy, who may take the case further, to the Curia.

On election night, the race was so close almost all the way through that already then, Vitézy said that there should be a recount. When Gergely Karácsony won the mayoral election by 324 votes, Vitézy announced that he would appeal the result.

But it is not as simple as requesting a recount of the votes from the National Election Office (NVI). In such cases, a specific irregularity must be reported and then proven. After this has been examined, the committee decides whether it is necessary to recount all the votes or only the votes cast in some of the polling stations, or perhaps to recount the invalid votes, or to call a completely new vote.

Vitézy arrived at the Budapest Election Office carrying a hefty folder on Wednesday. As he said, this was partly because there was no uniform procedure in the capital for crossing out Alexandra Szentkirályi’s name from the ballot – there were districts where the line crossing out her name was barely visible – and partly because according to him, many valid votes had been counted as invalid.

He bases this on the fact that the manual issued by the NVI was not clear on this and did not explain in sufficient detail that if someone puts an X next to the name of Alexandra Szentkirályi AND any other candidate, it counts as a vote for the candidate still in the race. According to Vitézy, such ballots may have been counted as invalid in many places.

Gergely Karácsony reacted by saying that everyone has a right to redress, but the high number of invalid votes was Fidesz’s fault, since they withdrew their candidate at the last minute. He also noted that Vitézy „now wants to have a recount of the invalid votes based on statements from Fidesz’s election delegates who on Sunday had signed a certificate attesting that the votes were indeed invalid”.

Vitézy also commented on the NVB’s decision. He said it was important to have clarity, because many valid votes may have been counted as invalid. „The very essence of democratic elections is that every vote must be counted. We will patiently await the result of the recount”, which I will accept, he said.

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