Opposition parties claim the National Election Office (NVI) is obstructing the collection of signatures of the opposition’s ‘Fudan referendum’ initiative, preventing it from being held at the same time as next year’s elections and the government’s own referendum. But NVI says it is carrying out its duties related to the referendum in full compliance with the legal deadlines.
On 17 December, the united opposition requested the NVI to provide additional signature collection sheets, but the body will only provide them on 23 December, just before Christmas, the opposition claims in a statement released on Tuesday.
In addition, they say that the previously requested forms were also received by the petitioner, Budapest Mayor Gergely Karácsony late on the afternoon of December 15th instead of the 13th.
Viktor Orbán talked about the opposition’s initiative during his press conference on Tuesday. The Prime Minister said that it is only legally possible to hold the referendum initiated by the opposition after the 2022 general election. But the opposition parties say this is not true: the government is merely stalling for time, with the assistance of the NVI.
The opposition is collecting signatures on two referendum questions: one on the Hungarian campus of China’s Fudan University and one on extending the eligibility period for jobless benefits.
The organizers of the initiative must collect 200,000 supporting signatures by mid-January, in order for the referendum to be held at the same time as the government’s own referendum and the parliamentary elections due sometime next spring. It is quite a challenge for them, considering that collecting so many signatures is not easy during such a short time, especially in the festive season.
So far, Democratic Coalition, Jobbik, LMP, MMM, Momentum, MSZP, Párbeszéd and the Hungarian Two-Tailed Dog Party (MKKP) have collected a total of 25,000 signatures in less than a week.
NVI: Election Office fulfilling its tasks in compliance with regulations
Later on, the NVI commented on the case. The petitioner, Budapest mayor, Gergely Karácsony requested signature collection sheets for the planned referendums on the Hungarian campus of China’s Fudan University and on extending the eligibility period for jobless benefits for the first time, late on the evening of 11 December, the National Election Office said in a statement.
The NVI added that the organization had also suggested this to Karácsony, so on 13 December, the mayor added more to the order which he had placed, as the capacity of the state printers producing the sheets allowed for this within the given deadline.
“The NVI thus issued a first batch of 26,667 signature sheets per question on 15 December to the organizer, whose second request – contrary to press reports – was received by the NVI on the afternoon of 20 December, asking for more signature sheets,” the statement said. The NVI pointed out that these will also be issued by 23 December, i.e. in just three days, despite the five-day deadline set by the relevant law.
According to the NVI, this “clearly shows that, contrary to what has been written in the press, the National Election Office has been and is fulfilling its referendum-related tasks in cooperation with the petitioner and in compliance with legal deadlines.”
Featured photo via Gergely Karácsony’s Facebook page