picture of petition signers

Representatives of Hungary’s political opposition say that by the beginning of January, or the first half of the month at the latest, it will have a total of about half a million signatures to hold a referendum on Fudan University and unemployment benefits, writes Népszava.

Before Christmas, 45,000 signatures were collected within a few days. Although the referendum requires 200,000 authentic signatures per question, they figure they will need roughly 250,000 signatures per question due to disqualifications from inaccurate information entered together with the signatures.

In principle, this could be enough to hold a referendum before or at the same time as the Parliamentary elections to decide on whether voters want a Chinese private university to be built in Budapest and want to increase the length of employment benefits to nine months from the current three months.

Magyar Hang writes that the Orbán government is giving signs that it is trying to make the opposition’s initiative impossible through administrative delays. If the opposition manages to collect half a million signatures in a few weeks, it will be up to the Fidesz-loyal authorities to allow the referendum to take place. Prime Minister Viktor Orbán may have already revealed his intentions when he recently said that “it is only legally possible to hold the Fudan referendum after the elections.”

The Orbán government will also be holding its own referendum on five “child protection” questions. Budapest Mayor Gergely Karácsony also submitted five questions to the National Election Commission (NVB) for approval this summer. But while the NVB took just a week to validate the government’s questions, it took a month and a half to consider Karácsony’s questions, and finally approved two out of the five.

The National Election Office has also tried to make it difficult to collect signatures, the news site claims. Although in some cases the office has been able to produce signature sheets in hours, it has dragged its feet in printing out and sending signature sheets on Fudan and unemployment benefits to the opposition.

[Magyar Hang][Photo: Gergely Karácsony / Facebook]

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By Steven N.

Steven is the editor-in-chief of Hungarian Politics. He has been following the political scene in Hungary and the Central European region more or less since 1994.