Human rights NGO TASZ and opposition parties Momentum and satirical Hungarian Two-Tailed Dog Party (MKKP), decided to challenge the National Election Committee’s (NVB) approval of the government’s recently announced referendum questions claiming they are unclear and some of them are even unconstitutional.
Prime Minister Viktor Orbán announced in July that the government had decided to initiate a referendum in defense of Hungary’s controversial “child protection law” from “attacks” by Brussels. At the end of the month, the National Election Committee (NVB) approved the five referendum questions. The decision could be appealed within 15 days, and as it turns out, several opposition parties and human rights NGO TASZ (Hungarian Civil Liberties Union) have made use of the legal option.
TASZ claims, among other things, that when certifying the questions, the NVB overlooked the fact that only questions to which voters can give a clear answer can be put in a referendum, and that Parliament can decide what legislation it is obliged to enact as a result of the referendum result. This is the only way to ensure that a referendum can be a means of clearly expressing the will of the people, rather than serving the propaganda purposes of the initiator. The questions submitted by the government do not meet these requirements, TASZ says.
In addition to the lack of clarity, the petitions by TASZ also argue that some of the referendum questions are explicitly aimed at restricting children’s freedom of information, in violation of international conventions accepted by Hungary. In addition, the questions should not have been put to referendum because making social issues related to LGBTQ+ people taboo or stigmatizing them violates Hungary’s constitution which also protects sexual orientation as part of human dignity.
In addition to TASZ, several political parties announced that they had done the same and challenged the referendum at Hungary’s supreme court, the Kúria.
Opposition Momentum says that the questions are nonsensical and that it is not clear how they could be fulfilled by legislation in the case of a valid and successful referendum. It is not obvious who and what they would oblige. According to the party, the NVB and the Kúria have a strict system of criteria, and in the past, many more precise questions submitted by opposition parties have been rejected for lack of clarity.
The centrist liberal party also labels the questions unconstitutional, because while a referendum is expected to be feasible within the framework of the constitution, whether the yes or no votes come out on top, these questions are not fit for that purpose.
Satirical Two-tailed Dog Party (MKKP), who indeed took the issue seriously, also found problems with the government’s referendum and decided to challenge four of its five questions.
According to the party, the whole referendum goes against the purpose of the legal institution, since the decisions have already been taken by the Parliament and the EU infringement procedure is obviously not affected by the result.
Similar to Momentum, the party believes the questions are also unclear. In many cases, the subject of the questions is not specified, for example, who should not show sexual media content to underage children that could affect their development, or whether “only the sex change of humans should not be shown,” or even educational films about “the sex change of a clownfish or a ribbon moray eel,” MKKP pondered.
The party also argues that in case of certain possible results of the referendum, it is not clear what decision Parliament should make, and certain results are not enforceable because they go against higher EU legislation.
Furthermore, the referendum could also have an outcome that bans the display of any sexual orientation, including heterosexuality, so that most literature and biology books could be thrown out the window.
According to the MKKP, the questions are also misleading because they “give the false impression that gender reassignment surgery for minors is currently available in Hungary, and they conflate transsexuality and intersexuality, so that in many cases voters are not completely aware about what exactly they are deciding.”
Featured photo illustration by Zoltán Balogh/MTI