Gergely Karacsony, Source: Bence Járdány, Municipality of Budapest

Budapest Mayor engages with Hungary’s PM in referendum duel

Budapest Mayor engages with Hungary’s PM in referendum duel

The united opposition fields five serious questions to counter Viktor Orbán’s five-point plebiscite on the anti-LGBT law

In a seemingly surprise move, the Hungarian government lifted on Wednesday morning the ban on organizing nationwide referendums (local referendums still cannot be called). Initiating referendums has been impossible so far due to the state of emergency, introduced last year with subsequent extensions to combat the Covid-19 pandemic.

Orbán seeks public support for the anti-LGBT law

Just hours after the government decree was published, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán announced in a live video feed on Facebook that his government is initiating a referendum on the controversial anti-LGBT law officially called the Children Protection Act. Originally conceived as a legal tool against paedophilia, and supported across the political spectrum, the bill suffered a last minute amendment which included banning depictions of homosexuality and transgender issues in the school curriculum and on TV.

The law faced a barrage of criticism as being discriminatory against the LGBTIQ community prompting the European Union to launch legal action against Hungary. The law was seen as contravening Article 21 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, which reads: "Stigmatizing persons constitutes a clear breach of their fundamental right to dignity, as provided for in the EU Charter and international law."

Orbán justified the referendum by saying that Brussels’ legal action constitutes a clear attack on Hungary. No date was set for the plebiscite which would ask five questions:

  1. Do you support that minors should attend school classes on the topic of sexual orientation without parental consent?
  2. Do you support promoting gender change treatments among minors?
  3. Do you support that gender reassignment surgery should be available to minors?
  4. Do you support that sexual media content influencing development should be presented to minors without restriction?
  5. Do you support that media content depicting gender change should be presented to minors?

Karácsony fights back

Following hard on the heels of Orbán’s move, Gergely Karácsony, Budapest Mayor and contender for the prime minister’s seat in next year’s elections, announced on Facebook a counter-referendum on behalf of the united opposition.

In his call for public support, the Mayor referred to the alleged government’s involvement in the Pegasus wiretapping scandal which found some 300 Hungarian phone numbers belonging to journalists, lawyers, business leaders, activists, and others on a global list of persons targeted for surveillance through Israeli security company software. Karácsony also blamed the government for depriving Hungarians of European subsidies due to its institutionalized corruption.

Five vs five

Matching the questions of the government’s referendum, the Mayor brought five nationally vital issues to the public attention. The first one concerns the controversy surrounding the construction of a Chinese Fudan University campus in Budapest with Hungarian taxpayers' money instead of a Student City with affordable housing for thousands of Hungarian students.

The second issue is related to the government decision to introduce a 35 year-concession on Hungary’s motorway network, criticized as a state assets sell-off to businessmen close to Fidesz in an attempt to cement the ruling party’s power. 

The third question is about joining the European Public Prosecutor's Office and reform of the judiciary, currently “subordinate to the government policy of institutionalized corruption”, as a precondition for accessing the European funds.

The fourth question asks the public to support a call for a nationwide expansion of Budapest’s free antigen testing programme for people over 60. Checking the immunity status of this at-risk group is essential, says the Mayor, given the compromised efficacy of the Chinese vaccines.

The fifth question calls for an extension of the jobseeker's allowance. According to the Mayor, the Hungarian government provides the lowest job search support in Europe.

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