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President sets April 8 as date for general election

President of the Republic János Áder has set the date of Hungaryʼs 2018 general election for April 8, the earliest possible Sunday that the ballot can be held under the law. This will be the eighth general election in Hungary since the change of political system.

"As the fifth President of the Republic of Hungary, exercising the responsibility vested in me under the Fundamental Law, with a special welcome to the hundreds of thousands of young people voting for the first time, and honoring the memory of the first free elections, I proclaim the 2018 general parliamentary elections for April 8," declared Áder on Thursday morning in an official communiqué from the Office of the President.

Under the Fundamental Law (Hungaryʼs constitution), elections must be called every four years in the month of April or May, 70-90 days before the actual set date. The election falls on this occasion on the first Sunday after Easter, the earliest possible date, notes online news portal index.hu.

In Hungaryʼs mixed electoral system, Hungarians will vote to elect a total of 199 members of Parliament, 106 of these from individual constituencies by first-past-the-post voting, and 93 from party lists by proportional representation.

In individual constituencies, the winner will be the one earning the most votes, irrespective of whether this exceeds 50% of the total.

Voters will also receive another ballot containing party lists. Here, they vote not for an individual candidate but for a party list. (Ethnic Hungarians living in neighboring countries, because they are not resident in Hungary, may only vote for the party lists.)

The electoral threshold for individual parties to enter Parliament via their national lists is set at 5% of total votes, although this is raised to 10% for coalitions of two parties, and 15% for coalitions of three or more parties. Below this threshold, a party or parties will not gain representation in Parliament through a list.

One party needs a minimum 100 members of Parliament to be duly elected in order to form a government, constituting an absolute majority. A two-thirds majority requires 133 MPs.

From February 9, some 7.9 million eligible voters resident in Hungary must receive notification of their entry onto the electoral register, thereby guaranteeing them eligibility to vote.

The campaign season will be officially launched on February 17, the legally specified 50 days before the election date. It is from this date until the election on April 8 that funds provided for campaigning purposes may be spent by the parties.

While the National Election Office (NVI) can be expected to declare the preliminary result on election night, index.hu notes that the legal outcome of the election will only be determined officially once ballot boxes containing votes cast abroad have been received and all postal votes counted.

Results in individual constituencies will be determined by April 14 at the latest, and the nationwide outcome of the election by April 27.

The new Parliament must be convened by May 8.