The Old and the New Corruption. Elections in Hungary 1867–1918

Stará a nová korupcia: voľby v Uhorsku (1867–1918)

In this paper the author gives an overview on the history of corruption in Hungarian Elections. In addition he examines the condition of the Hungarian legal, political and moral norms during the long 19th century to explore the complex reasons of corrupt practices. In the author's opinion the main elements are the following:
(1) The laws were not exacts, the juries gave the politicians forgiveness and the process of electoral petitions was expensive and complicated.
(2) The suffrage was narrow and the voting was open so the canvassers could motivate and control the behaviour of voters by money.
(3) The Hungarian ruling class's fears of the opposition, then of the nationalities and of social democracy also contributed to the proliferation of corruption. The idea of protection of the political system and of the Magyar supremacy sanctified the abuses for the elite.
(4) The political culture in Hungary (especially in the non-urban and peripheral constituencies) was parochial-subject, the citizens had not enough knowledge and information about the politics and politicians to vote judiciously so they got used to bribery soon. There were not real lively connections between the citizens and their MPs. The politician could easily become a "bankroller" in the voters' eyes.
(5) While the legal and illegal costs of politics increased significantly and the electoral competition of political parties became more intensive in this century, the financial conditions and social status of the MPs declined. They could not finance their own campaigns any more. At the beginning of the 20th century, besides the old-fashioned techniques, new corrupt practices appeared and spread. Banks and companies took over the main role of financing from wealthy patrons: they fed the secret party-funds in exchange for state concessions. In Hungary the old and new methods of corruption, accepted tacitly by opposition and the society too, worked together.