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Kúria clears the way for referendum on Sunday-closing

April 8th, 2016

Hungary’s top court has authorised an opposition referendum designed to overturn the government ban on shops opening on Sundays. In response, commentators who have for years complained about ‘the end of the rule of law’, express both surprise and cautious satisfaction.

The Kúria had been expected to overturn the decision of the National Electoral Commission to approve a rival referendum question (See BudaPost, February 25). In fact, the court went further: it both struck down the rival question, and approved that of a Socialist politician.

‘Hungary has suddenly become East Europe’s Switzerland,’ Népszabadság writes in its front page editorial, as two extra questions will also be put to referendum, if the necessary 200 thousand signatures are collected within 120 days. One is on banning the sale of state owned arable land and another would impose a monthly two million forint ceiling on public officials’ salaries. A fourth referendum is being promoted by the government itself, on rejecting compulsory European migrant resettlement quotas, which Népszabadság believes can only be successful if the question is put to the popular vote along with the other three..

On HVG online, Árpád W. Tóta takes it for granted that the referendum on Sunday shop closures will be won by the opposition, unless the government decides to abolish the Sunday ban in order to avoid defeat. “They should admit failure”, Tóta believes, and suggests that ’we would all be better off if they simply learned to do so.’

Magyar Narancs quotes its own article of three years ago, in which the left-liberal weekly wrote about ‘the end of politics’. ‘Now things may be changing,’ the author writes after the Kúria’s ruling, and expresses the hope that the three referenda will mark ‘the beginning of the end of the Orbán régime’.

In Magyar Nemzet, György Pápay strongly advises the decision makers to withdraw the ban on Sunday-opening, to ‘pull the teeth of the referendum’. But he also urges the authorities to take measures to punish the ‘gentlemen with very short hairstyles’ who, in the words of  the court, prevented the initiator of the referendum from exercising his constitutional right.


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