In Hungary we get to vote on elections after the age of 18, and I’ve taken voting very seriously from the beginning.
I can’t say I was very consistent with my party preference over the years, although I can definitely say that I was and still am consistent with the principles I follow. It’s the specificity of Hungarian party politics that certain parties changed colours. Of course I will not share how I voted, but here is a quick account of my memories of all the elections I’ve voted on.
The first ever elections I’ve voted on was the 2002 parlamentary elections. I was a sociology student at university, so besides a certain circle of friends, my studies affected my worldview a lot, so I’ve voted accordingly. Back then there were two rounds of voting, and I remember changing my vote (slightly) due to the results of the first round on the insistance of some friends. I wasn’t as well-prepared and well-informed as I consider myself to be nowadays, and I was very young, but I still find my choice reasonable.
Back then the municipal elections vere held the same year as the parliamentary elections, so later that year was my second time. As my permanent address is (still) in my hometown, which is a small town in a rural county, we tend to know the mayoral candidates personally, so I voted for the person my family knew, but he happened to be in accordance with my party preference back then too. I don’t remember giving too much thought to it though.
In all, I don’t have much recollection about the municipal elections, so I won’t cover them one by one. I do know that I voted on all of them, except for the last one in 2019 (that is the only one election I’ve ever missed!), because I was late to realize that my temporary address card was expired, so I couldn’t change polling stations to vote away from home.
In spring 2003 there was a referendum held to decide whether Hungary should join the European Union. Of course I went and voted a whole-hearted yes, along with 83,76 % of Hungarian voters who were excited about our integration into the progressive part of Europe.
Next year, in 2004 were the first European parliamentary elections held in Hungary. I do know I’ve voted on each EP elections, but I don’t have much recollection of them either. One of them actually, the last one sticks out, because in 2019 the date of the EP elections coincided with a trip to London. I went for a Mariah Carey concert Saturday night, I was up and out until about 2am, then got up at 6am the next morning to go vote at a foreign representation. I voted at Methodist Central Hall Westminster (yes, the very same one where the first UN General Assembly was held in 1946!), and topped it with a nice Sunday morning stroll in the almost empty London city center. That was the only time I voted abroad so far.
At the end of 2004 there was a referendum held in Hungary with two questions, one about the privatization of hospitals and the other about the citizenship of people with Hungarian ethnicity living outside our borders. As many referendums, this, at least the second question was a controversial one that provided a different answer dependent on whether one listened to their hearts or their rational. I do remember my vote on both questions and I still stand by them.
The 2006 parliamentary elections were the last one when I voted at home (at my permanent address). I do remember my choice as one heavily influenced by my studies at that time. I got my sociology degree by that time, my studies, especially tha last two years were focused on political media, I wrote my thesis about elections is the media. By that time my worldview and political view was pretty much formed and ready, and hasn’t changed since then.
There was another referendum held in 2008 that I completely forgot about, I had to look up what the questions were just now. Seeing the questions I am sure I voted, and have a strong guess how, but I don’t remember it at all.
The 2010 parliamentary elections were the first when I voted away from home, in Budapest, where I lived by then. It was a year when voting at polling stations other than one’s residence was very poorly organized in Budapest, I wrote about it here. We stood in line for about 5 hours, and we got to cast our votes way after 7pm when polling stations were supposed to close. I remember not having been prepared at all, we went thinking it wouldn’t take much longer than voting at home, so we had nothing to drink or eat with us, other than a few drops of leftover M&Ms from the previous night at the movies. Still I was determined to vote and haven’t left until I did. The next two elections, in 2014 and 2018 I also voted in Budapest at a polling station for people voting outside of their residency, but it went much more smoothly both times.
There was another referendum held in Hungary in 2016, and that one I did not attend. I thought I was protesting against the stupidity of the question by staying away, and sure enough the referendum ended up being not valid for lack of interest. I am pretty sure that should this year’s referendum be held apart from the parliamentary elections, people would stay away all the same. Of course we still have the chance to participate in one and refuse to take the ballot of the other. But there are ways to protest by casting your ballot as well.
At this year’s parliamentary elections I will vote in a polling station other than my permanent residency again, but this time not far away, as I am delegated to count votes in a small town near my hometown. I feel very strongly about the elections, I do believe that decisions are made by those who show up, so whatever the results might be, I am looking forward to celebrate the fact that I am able to participate in democratic elections this Sunday again.
See you on the other side!