Restriction of voting rights of national minorities

In the case of Bakirdzi and E.C. v. Hungary (application nos. 49636/14 and 65678/14, 10.11.2022) concerning the voting rights of the applicants, registered as national-minority voters for the 2014 parliamentary elections in Hungary, the Court found a violation of Article 3 of Protocol No. 1 taken in conjunction with Article 14 of the Convention.

The European Court of Human Rights found that the system that had been put in place to ensure the political representation of national minorities in Hungary had ended up limiting their political
effectiveness and threatened to reduce, rather than enhance, diversity and the participation of minorities in political decision-making. National-minority candidates had to attain the requisite number of votes only from the ballot of national-minority voters belonging to the same minority group as themselves, which placed them in a very different situation to other candidates who could obtain votes from the total eligible electorate. Similarly, other members of the electorate were free to associate with any other like-minded electors for the advancement of political beliefs, whereas national-minority candidates and voters were limited to their national community. This disadvantage in the electoral process was not based on the national-minority candidates’ or voters’ own choice to associate with a small political interest group of the population but had arisen from a governmental decision

The Court doubted that a system in which a vote could be cast only for a specific closed list of candidates (i.e. without the possibility of expressing a preference for (a) particular candidate(s)), and which required voters to abandon their party affiliations in order to have representation as a member of a minority ensured “the free expression of the opinion of the people in the choice of the legislature”.

The Court considered that once it had been decided to set up a system intended to eliminate or reduce instances of inequality in political representation, it was only natural that that measure should help to enable national minorities to participate in the choice of the legislature on an equal footing with others, rather than perpetuate the exclusion of minority representatives from political decision-making at a national level. In this case, the system that had been put in place limited their political effectiveness as a group and threatened to reduce, rather than enhance, diversity and the participation of minorities in political decision-making.

The Court held, unanimously, that the combination of restrictions on the applicants’ voting rights had constituted a violation of Article 3 of Protocol No.1 to the Convention (right to free elections) taken in conjunction with Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination) of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Reference from the official website of the European Court of Human Rights