Budapest, July 28 (MTI) – The National Election Office (NVI) will not approve holding a national referendum on preventing the further sale of state-owned farmland because the opposition Socialist Party, which initiated the referendum, has failed to submit the required 200,000 valid supporting signatures, the deputy head of the office said late on Wednesday.
Krisztián Gáva told commercial television ATV that after reviewing 96 percent of the signatures submitted by the Socialists, 173,000 were ruled valid while 42,000 were found to be invalid. The NVI has about 10,000 more signatures to review, but even if all of them are found valid the party would still not have the required 200,000 signatures, he said.
The NVI will finish reviewing the signatures this week and will go back and check the ones that were deemed invalid during the first review, Gáva added.
He said that on Tuesday the NVI published all of its guidelines on reviewing the referendum signatures, as requested by the Socialists. He said the documents were never classified but because they are the NVI’s internal guidelines, the office could not reveal them to the Socialists immediately. Gáva said the reason why the NVI decided to publish the guidelines was because of recent statements in the press that questioned the office’s impartiality.
Socialist Party deputy leader Zoltán Gőgös reacted to Gáva’s remarks saying that the party disagrees with the election office’s methods for reviewing the signatures. He insisted that the party collected and submitted 200,000 valid signatures and said they will appeal the office’s decision.
Gőgös said the ruling Fidesz party “had already decided” that there will not be a national referendum on the sale of state-owned farmland. He accused the election office of counting the signatures “in a way that will thwart the referendum”.
He said it was “strange and suspicious” that almost a quarter of the signatures submitted were found to be invalid.
The green opposition LMP said on Thursday that it was “genuinely shocked and saddened” to hear that there will not be enough valid signatures counted to hold the referendum. Lawmaker Benedek R Sallai said in a statement that the relatively high number of invalid signatures was “suspicious” and “raised questions”.
“The theft of state-owned land must be stopped by any means necessary,” he insisted.
R Sallai said his party would submit to parliament a bill aimed at protecting state assets. “Given that this government has crossed every moral boundary compared to its predecessors,” it seems timely to pass a law that will ban the sale of state-owned farmland, he said.