While the opposition parties still insist on their referendum to be held together with the general election, even government-critical outlets write that the chances for this are now nearing zero. The election office has already begun the count, which they have 60 days to complete, adding to several other steps to be done before the president can eventually set the date.
After the National Election Committee (NVB) only approved two questions (the one regarding the Student City Project and dismissing Chinese state university Fudan’s arrival, and the one on extending the jobseekers’ allowance) out of five, the opposition parties wanted to collect 200,000 signatures by mid-January, with some even hoping for a late December conclusion.
This was delayed by some days due to a number of reasons, but last Friday, their representatives eventually submitted the paperwork. At the time of the submission, the National Election Office (NVI) already said that while they would increase their capacity, there was a preparatory phase that needed to be done before the actual counting procedure can start.
On Thursday, NVI informed the press that they completed this phase: forms were first sorted into batches of hundreds, then scanned one by one, enabling them to actually be counted (200,000 valid ones needed per referendum question), which the NVI said “would take several weeks.”
Opposition: Speed up the count
However, the opposition was determined about the success despite the delay. Shortly before the submission, the opposition alliance’s PM candidate, Péter Márki-Zay, warned that 24 hours proved sufficient for him to count the signos, urging NVI “not to play for time.”
Recent statements from the opposition parties similarly confirm their insistence on the timing. Democratic Coalition’s (DK) István Varga said “the government was obviously frightened” by the “huge number” of signatures supporting the referendum initiative, and insisted that it was a “democratic responsibility” of the government to allow the referendum to go ahead on the day requested.
Párbeszéd’s Mihály Gér commented that NVI should “prove that it is not playing for time under pressure from above.” He argued that while civil activists had been able to count the signatures in a day, the office had been unable to do the same in four days. He called on authorities to complete the job and set the referendum for April 3rd.
Still (too) long to wait until the President can set the date
According to the electoral law, the National Election Office has a maximum of 60 days to complete the entire counting process. Then the National Election Committee (NVB) will have to establish the results and forward them to House Speaker László Kövér (Fidesz), who can only announce the initiative at the next official session of the National Assembly.
After this, the National Assembly must order the referendum (for which it has a maximum of 30 days), which may still be appealed at the Constitutional Court (AB) within five working days. If someone submits a constitutional complaint (which is quite possible amid current political circumstances), AB has an extra five days to make a decision.
Therefore, even government-critical outlets take it for granted that the referendum couldn’t be held together with the general elections and with the government’s controversial LGBT+-themed one.
HVG pointed out that the president may set the referendum’s date for the day at least 50 days beforehand, meaning that February 12th would be the last day for János Áder to be able to do so. According to the liberal weekly’s calculations, however, the maximum execution time (all the bodies and dignitaries take the maximum time allowed) of the to-dos in between may even take a total of 230 days. Calculating with the minimum (without any appeal to the Consitutional Court, for instance), the opposition should have submitted the signatures by mid-January the latest.
Featured photo via Péter Márki-Zay’s Facebook page