National Gypsy Minority Self-Government elections in Hungary
03 April 1999
On January 23, 1999, approximately 2800 delegates from around Hungary gathered in Budapest to elect the so-called National Gypsy Minority Self-Government, a 53-member advisory body to the government. Under a 1993 law, Hungary allows for an elaborate system of minority representation on a local and national level. Roma have taken advantage of the law more than other minorities, although the system has been criticised as promising more than it can deliver in terms of minority rights. Following approximately eight hours of candidate registration, delegates voted individually, selecting 53 names each from a ballot list of 209 candidates. Towards morning of January 24, the result that the first 53 places had gone to incumbent Lungo Drom, led by Chairman Flórián Farkas, was read aloud to the remaining delegates. The first opposition candidates, Aladar Horváth and Ágnes Daróczi, came in at positions 54 and 55 respectively. Electoral inconsistencies included the fact that members of Lungo Drom had spent the entire duration of ballot counting in the room where votes were being tallied, as well as the fact that Flórián Farkas's secretary Beatrix Kiss read the election result. Observers additionally pointed out the implausibility that despite the fact that more than 53 Lungo Drom candidates appeared on the ballot, exactly that number were placed ahead of opposition candidates. Lungo Drom, as incumbent, additionally had access to funding not available to opposition candi-dates, and rumours of pre-election bribes proliferate. Opposition delegates conceded defeat, but one member of Lungo Drom has challenged the result, reportedly because positions within the advisory body were not allocated according to pre-election promises.
In related news, in the week prior to the election, the editorial staff of Patrin, the Romani program of the Hungarian state television headed by Romani opposition figure Ágnes Daróczi, called a press conference to announce that it had been fired and replaced with persons close to Lungo Drom.
In other Hungarian news, a survey carried out by the Minority Research Institute of the Minoritas Foundation revealed that 78 percent of vocational school students surveyed see Roma as negative and harmful. When asked to identify groups with whom they would not like to share a desk, most secondary school students named Roma. Most of the children giving negative answers did not consider the Roma to be a part of the Hungarian nation. The survey questioned 2600 secondary and vocational school students.
(ERRC, Magyar Hírlap, Roma Press Centre)