Hungary drops voter registration after court ruling

A Hungarian court says new voter registration rules would have discouraged voting and are unconstitutional.

BUDAPEST – Hungary's ruling Fidesz party abandoned plans on Friday to force millions of voters to sign up to be able to vote during national elections in 2014. The move came after the country's top court found parts of the government’s proposed reforms unconstitutional.

The Constitutional Court ruling and the retreat represent a major blow to conservative Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who swept to power with a two-thirds majority during 2010’s parliamentary elections.

Orban's Fidesz-Christian Democrat alliance approved a new voting system in November in one of the most hotly contested moves among a two-year flurry of reforms that included a new constitution and a swathe of laws that critics say entrench Fidesz's power.

The changes proposed by Fidesz and approved in parliament, without support of the opposition, would have required 8 million voters to register in person or online at least two weeks before elections in 2014.

Currently, voters only have to turn up at polling stations on the day of an election to be identified from an existing state-run database. They may then cast their vote.

Critics said the measure imposed undue restrictions on a basic tenet of democracy and would discourage large groups of undecided or swing voters from casting their ballot.

Reporting by Gergely Szakacs and Krisztina Than

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