Campaign to collect signatures for anti-graft referendum gets under way in Hungary
A campaign to collect signatures for a referendum on extending the statute of limitations in the case of crimes involving corruption got under way on Sunday.
Former LMP lawmaker Gábor Vágó initiated the campaign. At a news conference held at a popular market hall in Budapest, where volunteers collected signatures, Vágó, who is secretary of the Anti-Corruption Alliance, said the public prosecutor, Péter Polt, would “avert his eyes from corruption cases in vain”. Extending the statute of limitation would give the chance to punish people who commit corruption crimes.
The referendum question is the following:
“Do you agree that the punishability of corruption crimes should elapse at least twelve years after they were committed?”
Fully 120,000 valid signatures must be collected by Jan. 13 in order to qualify for holding a referendum.
Vago said the popular vote would show that it is possible to clean up public life. Moreover, the extension of the statute of limitations would lead to a government determined to eliminate corruption, he insisted.
organisations that refused to join the initiative would demonstrate that “they support the corrupt system”
He planned to hand over the signatures during the autumn session of parliament so that the plebiscite could be held before the 2018 general election in the spring.
Referring to another referendum campaign on the question of whether to put a wage cap on company chiefs, he said several tens of thousands of signatures had already been collected and it would be good to coordinate the timing of the votes.
Gergely Karácsony, co-leader of the Dialogue party, told the news conference that the campaign sent an important message to voters that it was possible to clean up public life, and he said
the Achilles heel of the government headed by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán was graft.
Other politicians who addressed the event included representatives from the Együtt, LMP and Socialist parties. Also present was a representative of the Momentum movement.
The National Election Committee gave the go-ahead for the plebiscite on April 10. The collection of signatures was able to proceed today after the Kúria, Hungary’s supreme court, recently upheld the decision of the committee following an appeal against it.
Fidesz’s incoming parliamentary group leader, Gergely Gulyás, told MTI in reaction that the ruling party regarded extending the statute of limitations as reasonable, and there was no need to collect signatures for a referendum on the subject.
He said if it were truly the case that the opposition parties wanted to extend the statute of limitations for corruption crimes rather than simply mounting a political campaign, then all they would have to do is submit the proposal to parliament and Fidesz would support it.
The Fidesz lawmaker added that a referendum could not be held in the current parliamentary cycle. He added, however, that there was nothing to stop the penal code from being amended to extend, in a matter of a few weeks, the statute of limitations in the case of corruption-related crimes.
Citing a graft case related to construction of the fourth metro line under Fidesz’s left-liberal governing predecessor, he said: “We find good reason to extend the statute of limitations”.