February 12 is the last day that President János Áder can declare the referendum proposed by the political opposition to be held on the same day as parliamentary elections on April 3 this year. But time is not on the side of those supporting the initiative, and it may run out before all the pieces come together.
A minimum of 200,000 valid signatures are required for a referendum to be held on the twin issues of Fudan University in Budapest and an extended period for receiving unemployment benefits. However, the February 12 date also means that in theory all signatures on the petitions will have been checked by the National Electoral Office (NVI), the results certified by the National Electoral Commission (NVB), then forwarded by the NVB President to László Kövér, Speaker of the National Assembly.
Following this, Parliament must pass a decree for a referendum, against which an appeal may be lodged with the Constitutional Court within five working days. If a constitutional complaint is also made, then the Constitutional Court likewise has five working days to decide the case.
According to András Litresits, a former MSZP delegate to the National Electoral Commission, under these conditions it is doubtful whether the referendum on Fudan and unemployment benefits will be able to be held on election day, even if the opposition parties are able to deliver the required number of signatures within the next few days.
One of the biggest problems with the deadlines, said the lawyer, is that those in charge usually take advantage of the time they have available and only issue a ruling towards the end of the deadline. In this case, the Curia High Court had 90 days last year to simply rule on whether to permit the referendum proposal to go forward.
So the body, led by András Zs. Varga, was able to sit on the case from September to the beginning of December, and finally give a ruling in non-public circumstances (not litigation). And with regards to initiatives coming from the opposition, the Curia generally leans towards deciding at the end of the legal deadline.
-explained the lawyer.
Indeed, the Curia approved the two referendum questions on December 8, only eight days before the 90-day deadline, said Litresits. If the court had instead issued a ruling in September or October, the lawyer believes that there would have been a good chance for the opposition parties to gather the requisite 200,000 signatures before Christmas. In this case, the deadlines would not have been so tight, and Litresits believes that the referendum almost certainly would have been held on April 3.
The United for Hungary opposition announced in a joint press conference on the morning of January 14 that they were already at 170,000 signatures, so even with such tight deadlines, it may still be possible to have a referendum on Fudan and a longer period for unemployment benefits on the same day as parliamentary elections and the government’s referendum on child protection issues.
[Azonnali][Photo: Gergely Karácsony / Facebook]