Hedging Against Uncertainty: Regime Change and the Origins of Hungary's Mixed‐Member System

John W. Schiemann

in Mixed-Member Electoral Systems

Published in print February 2003 | ISBN: 9780199257683
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191600241 | DOI:

Series: Comparative Politics

 Hedging Against Uncertainty: Regime Change and the Origins of Hungary's Mixed‐Member System

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This examines why Hungary adopted a mixed‐member (MM) electoral system by analyzing the bargaining process that produced it. The discussion of Hungary's negotiated transition to democracy from communism in 1989 shows that the country's MM system emerged as the result of a patchwork grafting of different components rather than a systematically conceived and coherently designed grand plan to meet broad societal needs. The coalition of opposition parties and the ruling Hungarian Socialist Workers’ Party that negotiated the electoral law in National Roundtable talks attempted to design a system that would both maximize the seat shares of their individual parties and allocate those seats to top‐party elites. They pursued these objectives, however, under a thickening veil of ex ante uncertainty about ex post electoral outcomes, and indeed, the thickening of the veil during the Roundtable talks caused the ruling Socialists to hedge their bets on the global features of the system, combining different sets of rules in order to allocate seats in multiple ways. The chapter proceeds as follows: the first section provides some necessary historical background, discussing previous electoral systems in Hungary's fleeting periods of democratic rule and under communism, as well as the struggles over the reform of the law leading up to the National Trilateral (Roundtable) talks that produced the system in use today; the second section briefly describes the electoral system resulting from the electoral law of 1989, identifying the significant elements of the law and disaggregating the institution into its individual components; the third section discusses the background to the National Roundtable talks, and the fourth turns to the negotiated design of the 1989 law in order to explain the origin of the significant components of the Hungarian electoral system; the last section summarizes the discussion.

Keywords: communism; democracy; electoral history; electoral reform; electoral systems; Hungary; mixed‐member electoral systems; negotiation

Chapter.  11397 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Comparative Politics

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