The National Election Committee (NVB) approved two of the five referendum questions submitted by Budapest Mayor Gergely Karácsony, the candidate for Prime Minister of opposition parties MSZP-Párbeszéd-LMP, at its meeting on Monday. This means that the drive to collect 200,000 signatures required to trigger the referendum process can begin soon.
Among the questions submitted by Gergely Karácsony are regarding the planned construction of the Chinese Fudan University in Budapest, the 35-year concession of Hungary’s motorway network, Hungary’s accession to the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO), an extension of the eligibility period for unemployment benefits, and the making of Covid antigen tests free for people over 60.
The exact questions are:
- “Do you agree that the maximum duration of unemployment benefit should be 270 days?”
- “Do you agree that all Hungarian residents over 60 years of age should be entitled to a free SARS-CoV-2 neutralizing antibody test?”
- “Do you agree that Hungary should join the European Public Prosecutor’s Office?”
- “Do you agree that the operation of motorways in Hungary should not be entrusted to a company under a concession contract?”
- “Do you agree that the National Assembly should repeal Act LXXXI of 2021 on the Fudan Hungary University Foundation and on the transfer of assets to the Fudan Hungary University Foundation?”
Eventually, the Election Committee deemed only the first and last questions acceptable for a referendum. Therefore, Hungarian citizens can decide whether the state should pay the costs of the Chinese Fudan University campus in Budapest and whether those who lose their jobs should receive unemployment benefits for 270 days instead of the current 90 days.
“I am glad that in these two questions [the NVB] did not stand in the way of the will of the voters, but I think that the reasons for rejecting the other three questions were not well-founded, we will appeal to the Kúria [Hungary’s top court], we need the referendum protecting our future,” commented Gergely Karácsony on the decision.
Before the meeting of the Election Committee, the mayor also said that if the body refuses to approve any of the questions, he will appeal against the decision.
Gergely Karácsony submitted his five questions on July 21st, the same day the government allowed referendums again after they had been put on hold as part of measures to manage the coronavirus pandemic to initiate its own “child protection” referendum bid.
Although the two bids were submitted at the same time, the NVB approved the government’s on July 30th, but only now, a month later, did they begin to discuss Karácsony’s questions.
While it is possible that the two initiatives will be put to a referendum at the same time, the administrative deadlines and legal possibilities make it unlikely that Gergely Karácsony’s initiative will be held before the 2022 parliamentary elections.
Featured photo illustration by Balázs Mohai/MTI