October 16, 2012 - 13:18 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - Hungary's parliament approved a law late on Monday, Oct 15 that will force its citizens to register in advance to vote in national elections, fuelling concerns over democratic safeguards in the country, Reuters reported.
The bill was drafted by the constitutional affairs committee and endorsed by the ruling Fidesz party of Prime Minister Viktor Orban, whose opponents say has pushed through policies that threaten the independence of the country's media, judiciary and central bank.
Hungary's around 8 million eligible voters will have to sign up in person or online 15 days before the next parliamentary vote, expected in the first half of 2014.
Hungarians abroad, including hundreds of thousands of new voters granted dual citizenship after Orban took power in 2010, will be able to sign up by mail, an option not available to domestic voters.
Orban's Fidesz says registration is necessary given the large swathes of potential new voters in 2014, arguing the reform will strengthen democracy by encouraging people to take a more active role in the process.
But opposition parties say the new system, which will be carved into the constitution in a final parliamentary vote due on October 29, erodes voters' rights.
In comments made prior to Monday's parliamentary approval, the Socialist party accused Fidesz of trying to disenfranchise large groups of opposition voters.
The far-right Jobbik party called voter registration unconstitutional, and the green liberal LMP dubbed it a "declaration of war" against voters.
A survey by pollster Ipsos last month said registration would reduce turnout at the next election, with about a quarter of those planning to vote saying they would not register in advance.