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Committee rejects five other initiatives

Election committee approves government’s child protection referendum questions

The National Election Committee (NVB) on Friday approved the government's five referendum questions on child protection. Prime Minister Viktor Orbán announced earlier this month that the government had decided to initiate a referendum with a view to defending Hungary's new child protection law from "attacks" by Brussels.

The questions certified by the NVB today are the following: “Do you support the holding of sexual orientation classes for children in public education without parental consent?”; “Do you support the promotion of gender reassignment treatments for minors?”; “Do you support making gender reassignment surgery available to minors?”; “Do you support presenting media content that influences sexual development to children without restriction?”; “Do you support presenting media content that depicts gender change to children?”.

The referendum bid was backed by nine members of the committee, including six elected members and one delegate each from the ruling Fidesz and Christian Democrat parties and opposition Jobbik. One elected member and the delegate of opposition LMP voted against the initiative, while the delegates of the opposition Parbeszed, Socialist and Democratic Coalition (DK) parties abstained from voting.

The committee’s decisions can be appealed to the Kuria, Hungary’s supreme court, within 15 days.

Andras Teglasi, the head of the committee, argued in the debate on the questions that their subject matter was eligible for a referendum and that they met the requirement of clarity.

Tamas Fazekas, the delegate of Parbeszed, said that the institution of the referendum should not be used in political debates, and criticised the government for intending to use the referendum questions in the debate following the European Commission’s launch of an infringement procedure against Hungary over its child protection law.

He said three of the five questions did not meet the requirement of clarity, while two should be rejected on the grounds that they violate the ban on affirmative referendums.

Andras Litresits of the Socialists said it was “unacceptable” that the committee had not agreed to discuss referendum questions that had been submitted by Budapest Mayor Gergely Karacsony on the same day as the government’s questions. He accused the government of trying to use the referendum to distract from the Pegasus spyware allegations.

DK’s Dezso Avarkeszi insisted that the government’s questions were unclear and contributed to the hollowing out of the institution of the referendum.

Krisztian Csonka of LMP criticised the first question saying that it required a definition for “sexual orientation” in order to be clear. He said that if the referendum were to be valid and its results made binding, any form of sexual education at schools would be illegal.

Commenting on the NVB’s decision, the Government Information Centre (KTK) said Hungarians would be the first nation in Europe to get to express their views on “the issue of aggressive LGBTQ sexual propaganda targeting children”.

“The international, Brussels-based and domestic left-liberal organisations and the entire Soros network have launched an all-out attack on Hungary in recent weeks for putting this issue on the agenda,” the KTK said in a statement.

The Hungarian government believes that parents should have the exclusive right to decide on the sex education of their children and that “LGBTQ organisations and activists have no right to interfere in that”, it added.

Committee rejects five other initiatives

The National Election Committee on Friday rejected five referendum initiatives put forward by private individuals and members of the opposition, including questions on cutting greenhouse gas emissions, introducing a “billionaire tax”, state support for political parties, health-care financing and the appointment of public school head teachers.

Referendums were put on hold between early November and July 21 as part of measures to manage the coronavirus pandemic. The committee resumed consideration of initiatives that had been submitted before this period.

Zoltan Keresztenyi, a private individual, had formulated a question regarding the proportion of voting rights in connection with the appointment of head teachers of schools financed wholly or in part from the state budget. The committee rejected the initiative, citing a lack of clarity in the way the question was formulated.

The Hungarian Workers’ Party had wanted to put forward a question on whether health care should be free of charge and accessible to all, as well as whether Hungarian political parties should receive budget support. The party’s third question concerned whether billionaires should contribute to coronavirus-related spending by paying a special tax. The committee rejected the questions, citing conflicts with existing budget laws and the constitutions, among other reasons.

Erzsebet Schmuck, the co-leader of the green LMP party, had wanted to canvass people’s opinion on whether greenhouse gas emissions should be reduced by 65 percent by 2030 compared with 1990 levels. The committee cited incompatible timeframes regarding the legislative agenda and the timeframe included in the question as the reason why it rejected her initiative.

Meanwhile, the committee postponed assessing the initiative of the Civil Movement Association submitted in September last year concerning compulsory vaccination. The government on Thursday decided to make vaccinations for health-care employees mandatory, and since this development could not have been considered in the course of the committee’s decision-making process, it decided to postpone its ruling.

The committee’s decisions can be appealed to the Kuria, Hungary’s supreme court, within 15 days.

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