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Top court rejects appeal against changes to residence regulations

Hungary's Constitutional Court on Monday rejected a motion by opposition lawmakers against changes to Hungarian regulations in connection with the declaration of one's place of residence.

The lawmakers had requested that the court declare unconstitutional and annul a clause in an amendment on the definition of a person’s residence.

Prior to the amendment, declaring a place of residence without living at the address was a criminal act under Hungarian law. The amendment passed by parliament in November decriminalises such declarations, if the person making the declaration owns the property in question or made the declaration in agreement with its owner. Henceforth, a place of residence is regarded as a contact address only, and living there will no longer be a precondition for casting a vote.

The petitioners argued that under the amendment, the registration of a permanent address was no longer sufficient to verify that an individual actually lives at that address. Also, because voter registries are compiled based on voters’ permanent addresses, the requirement of a “close connection to the place of residence is rendered meaningless” under the amendment, they said, adding that this requirement was crucial in Hungary’s mixed electoral system. They added that the amendment violated the principle of the rule of law and restricted voting rights.

The Constitutional Court said the change to the definition of a place of residence had been necessary because citizens’ registered addresses “often do not reflect reality”.

It argued that apart from the definition of the place of residence, parliament had made no changes to the rules on voting rights. The change made to the definition of the place of residence has no bearing on the conditions for the exercise of political rights, the court said. The change can only impact which constituency a voter casts their ballot in, it added.

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