Budapest, February 23 (MTI) – The Socialist Party on Tuesday evening staged a demonstration in front of the National Election Office over an incident earlier in the day which led to a Socialist politician being prevented from submitting a referendum initiative on time.
Earlier on Tuesday István Nyakó attempted to submit a referendum initiative concerning Hungary’s Sunday shopping ban but could not get inside the National Election Office. Zoltán Lukács, another Socialist politician who was there with Nyakó, said the entrance to the building was “blocked by 15-20 people, pumped up and bald”. The group claimed to be “applicants”, too, Lukács said, and suggested that the “aggressive provocation” had been organised by the government to thwart the Socialist referendum proposal.
At the demonstration, attended by hundreds of protesters, including members of other opposition parties, Socialist leader József Tóbiás said the incident should not have been allowed to occur in a country under the rule of law. He said the government “is afraid” but the prime minister has to respect “the will of the voters”.
Zoltán Gőgős, the party’s deputy leader, said Nyakó was blocked from submitting his referendum question by “a private army” of trained individuals.
Nyakó and Lukács were waiting for a decision by the supreme court, the Kúria, on an earlier referendum initiative concerning the contested Sunday ban. The Kúria threw out the initiative. With that move, a new referendum could be proposed, the first submission coming before the Election Office.
Once the Kúria decision arrived, however, the Socialist deputies found that their submission had been preceded by two proposals presented by private individuals.
The first referendum initiative submitted to the Election Office on Tuesday asks whether citizens agree that retail shops should remain closed on Sundays in line with the Sunday shop closure law.
Nyako’s referendum question, asking voters whether they agree that parliament should scrap the shop closure law altogether, was submitted just a few seconds later.
The order in which the questions submitted is significant because Hungary’s referendum rules state that while a question is being examined by a court, it is not possible to submit another question on the same subject. In line with the law, the Election Office will now assess the initiative that was submitted first, while Nyako’s initiative will most likely be rejected.
Meanwhile, the leftist opposition Democratic Coalition has called on the “democratic opposition parties” to boycott plenary sessions of parliament — with the exception of votes on bills that require a two-thirds majority to pass — until the legislative body amends the rules on holding referendums and until members of the National Election Committee “who are accomplices of [ruling] Fidesz” resign from their positions.