The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) recommended on Friday that observers be sent to monitor the upcoming parliamentary elections in Hungary.
Some 199 seats will be up for grabs. The conservative right-wing Fidesz party, led by Prime Minister Viktor Orban, currently has a two-thirds majority. Six opposition parties have joined forces and rallied behind a common candidate, Peter Marki-Zay, in the hope of unseating Orban.
Voters will also be asked to take part in a referendum over a controversial anti-LGBT legislation — officially called the Children Protection Act — that would outlaw depictions of homosexuality and transgender issues in both the school curriculum and in any media aimed at minors. It also equates homosexuality with paedophilia.
The OSCE, an intergovernmental body addressing issues such as security, arms control, promotion of human rights and fair elections, published its so-called "Needs Assessment Mission Report" on Friday evening.
It recommended the deployment of an Election Observation Mission (EOM) — which usually comprises between 8 and 15 international experts sent for two to eight weeks — and that it be seconded by 18 long-term observers and 200 short-term observers to follow election day proceedings.
To write its report, the OSCE met with the various political parties as well as civil society actors in Hungary.
It said that some of the interlocutors it spoke to "raised concerns about potential pressure on voters" and that they believed that an international observation mission was necessary "due to the highly polarised political environment and the need to contribute to public confidence in the electoral process."
It added that "representatives of state institutions expressed their full readiness to conduct the elections in line with the law, and welcomed observation by the ODIHR [ the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights]" suggesting a mission is likely to be sent.
If it goes ahead, it will be the first time an OCSE election observation mission is sent to an EU member state with a 2013 ballot in Bulgaria.
The report comes three weeks after 62 MEPs wrote to the organisation demanding a full-scale election observation be sent to monitor the April 3 ballot.
They expressed concerns over the amendments to the Hungarian electoral legislation adopted in 2020 "during a state of emergency, without public consultation" which they said imposed "further restrictions on the candidatures for the national constituency" in such a way "to favour the incumbents."
Daniel Hegedus, a Transatlantic fellow at the German Marshall Fund thinktank, reacted to the OSCE's announcement, urging the body's European and North American members "to live up to this political obligation after 12 years of uninterrupted autocratisation in Hungary and delegate observers in appropriate numbers".
"No single member state can provide more than 15% of the EOM. But if Western allies are reluctant, Russia, Belarus and Serbia together might be able to delegate nearly half of the mission," he explained on Twitter.