Election 2022

The infamous ‘blue slip’ election fraud of 1947 and why people look it up in 2022

The infamous ‘blue slip’ election fraud in 1947 helped the communists into power – and ended Hungarian democracy until 1989. It may get repeated.

In November 2021 the Orbán-government finally decriminalized a very common practice: that people don’t live where they are officially registered. On the surface it may sound like a great idea. Whatever official statistics say about owner-occupancy in Hungary, the reality is that landlords rarely allow tenants to register in rental properties, forcing an estimated 600 thousand to 2 million citizens to be registered elsewhere, with friends or family. This is not only illegal but it causes problems when public services are calculated, and also makes going home to vote a massive effort for many.

It may sound like an act of mercy from the government – except this government is not known to make citizen-centered laws. If they made this new rule it is because it benefits them. After all, renters enjoy zero recognition by this government, and their situation could have been handled by other means, like making it less burdensome to establish and cancel registered addresses.

The Hungarian Civil Liberties Union immediately raised the alarm that the new law opens the door for ‘election tourism’: a method of electoral fraud when someone is allowed to vote away from his home address, which can be exploited by fraudulent parties by directing their voters into swing districts, for instance. And there will be a few districts where extremely tight results can decide the whole elections.

In 2018 there have been numerous reports about scores of people being registered into the same, dilapidated house (or morgue) in villages near the borders, where Ukrainians, Romanians or Serbians who hold Hungarian passports could officially vote. They also came up in mayoral elections, being registered to order to support the candidate who invited them.

Evidence of election fraud in 2018

37% Believe There Was Serious Electoral Fraud. This Is Why

So when the Orbán-government issued a so-called salad law (that amends and alters dozens of other, unrelated laws and usually comes out of nowhere) four months before the elections, everyone thought the same.

This is where a little bit of history helps.

Orbán’s power techniques copy the communists’ methods from the 1940s. He uses the infamous salami-tactic (used by both Hitler and the communists) like a pro. He also subdued the institutions of the state and all supposedly independent offices and eliminated the separation of powers pretty much like the Communist Party did when it needed to end democracy once and for all in Hungary. So the infamous 1947 “blue slip votes” came to the mind of everyone who ever learned history.

In 1947 the Moscow-run Hungarian Communist Party (MKP) was just one of the parties in the post-war country. But everything was all planned out to change that. And for bigger legitimacy, they wanted to have an election result to show.

The Communist Party was already running the interior ministry by the time (in line with Moscow’s orders) and the Red Army was still plundering the country, two years after they “liberated” it from the nazis. Being in the heart of the election infrastructure the communists were effectively running the show. And they needed very little, only around 20% to gain a majority in the fragmented party system of the time.

They already started the fraud before the elections. It was fraud by a thousand cuts. They had certain parties banned, others salamied. In the end 10 parties ran at the elections and even though the Small Farmers’ party had absolute majority, the Communist Party managed to slice them up until they were just one of many. They scrapped half a million voters from the election registry – those who were hostile to them. Other simply never received their registration, or they made it conditional for them. In the end 10% of voters lost their voting rights for the 1947 elections.

But that wasn’t enough. For election day they came up with the infamous blue slips. The blue slips were given to citizens who were not at home at the time of the election, so that they could vote elsewhere, anywhere else in the country as long as they showed their blue slip.

You can probably guess the next step. On the fine August day of the elections the Communist Party sent their activists around in the country on big trucks, voting in every town and village they hit on their way. They claimed to be factory workers on company outing – but sometimes they didn’t even bother to come up with credible stories. Many reports from election stations from that day testify to their brazen disregard for even the pretense of being in the clear. They showed up with a pile of blue slips in their hands, handed one to the officials and didn’t even try to hide the rest.

Naturally, the reports of local incidents were made – but they were sent to the interior ministry where the Communist Party officials read them and ignored them.

There are plenty of documents showing how the interior ministry itself was coordinating the move of the communist activists, sending them to swing districts where the local communist party office requested them.

After the elections the Communist Party still didn’t finish. They had another party (13% of the votes) banned retroactively. When officials were reluctant, the future communist dictator, Mátyás Rákosi ordered them into his villa and threatened them with a civil war.

The Communist Party collected about 1.1 million votes at the 1947 elections. Historians still don’t know just how many of those were blue slip votes, but estimate the number around 100 thousand. That was enough to boost the Communist Party and its coalition partner together for even more mandates as extra mandates went to the coalition that gained more than 60% – making them 75% in parliament. Just like today – but with higher threshold for boost.

How 1.1 million votes (out of around 5 million votes) could be enough for a supermajority in parliament? With a million, smaller frauds and some threats and blackmail here and there, with elaborate pre-election frauds, with a fraudulent electoral law on a tilted playing field – and of course with menacing support from Moscow. Just like today.

The fraud by a thousand cuts method was also obvious in 2014, and it was crucial for yet another supermajority in 2018. In 2018 even the ballot counting was questionable. Orbán really learns from the worst – and nothing happens to him if he cheats. If he loses, on the other hand … now that must be avoided.

I didn’t want to write about the blue slip elections because it is old news (both the communists and how Orbán works exactly like they do) but when I looked up the 1947 events I realized that a newly Orbanized news site (Hungary’s most read news site that was brutally occupied by Orbánists in 2020) actually thought about the same thing and published an article about the blue slip fraud, apropos of nothing, just before the new law came out. Just in case you were wondering what is on the minds of Orbánists these days.

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