The rigged referendum game

This will be my sixth post on the controversial law that forbids larger retail stores to be open for business on Sundays and on the futile attempts to convince the National Election Committee to allow a referendum on the issue. It is becoming obvious that the Orbán government will never allow such a referendum to be held. The list of tricks that have been employed to prevent it is a mile long, which shows that Viktor Orbán finds the prospect of a referendum a real threat to his regime. For that reason the officials whose job it is to approve or disapprove referendum requests are instructed to do everything in their power to block any such attempt. Even if their methods are blatantly illegal and fraudulent.

What is it about the seemingly innocuous question of whether stores should be open or closed on Sundays that frightens the powers that be? Especially when the law on holding referendums was written in such a way that it is almost impossible to hold a plebiscite that will be valid because of the very high participation requirements. Out of the approximately eight million voters four million must turn out to vote. But Orbán and company fear that this particular issue might galvanize the voting population and that the government would be forced to abrogate the law that came into force only a year and a half ago. A successful referendum would in essence be a vote of no confidence in the government.

I would like to emphasize at the very beginning that this “cat and  mouse game” that the government is playing with those who would like to see this referendum take place is deadly serious. It shows how “Orbán-style democracy” is playing out in real life.



In order to explain the story, I’m afraid I will have to start at the beginning. Here I will try to summarize earlier failed attempts at submitting proposals that the National Election Committee (NVB) would approve. However, to grasp all the intricate finagling of NVB and the National Election Office (NVI), I highly recommend that you read my two earlier posts that detail the tactics used by these two arms of the Orbán government.

First, you have to understand that no new referendum question can be submitted to the National Election Office until the fate of any previous submission has been decided, which normally means three months. So far so good, but what has been happening is that all sorts of bogus questions are being submitted by phony parties or by individuals wanting to help the government’s cause or, even worse, acting on the orders of the government. Here are some of the early bogus questions submitted by Zsolt Szepessy, former mayor of Monok and nowadays chairman of a phony party. “Do you agree that on Sundays all stores of multinational corporations [multik] should be open?” “Do you agree that all stores should be open on Sundays?” “Do you agree that all stores belonging to multinational corporations [multik] be closed on Sundays?” I guess I don’t have to continue the list. Szepessy was doing his level best to keep others from suggesting more logical and perhaps acceptable propositions. After Szepessy came various trade unions and finally the Magyar Munkáspárt (Hungarian Communist Party) with equally inappropriate questions. By that time it was April 2015, when two serious propositions were submitted, one by MSZP and the other by a civic group that calls itself Új Magyar Köztársaság Egyesület (ÚMKE).

These two questions looked as if they had more of a chance of passing the watchful eyes of the National Election Committee. MSZP’s question read: “Do you agree that parliament should annul Law CII of 2014 that forbade performing work on Sunday in the retail sector?” while ÚMKE’s was: “Do you agree that no law should limit the opening times of retail businesses?” At this point the head of the NVI resorted to some “dirty tricks.” Although MSZP’s proposal arrived at her office earlier than ÚMKE’s, she declared that she was ready to submit ÚMKE’s to the Commission. Appeals followed, the propositions were resubmitted in June, but in the end neither of them reached NVI because a third person allegedly reached the office ahead of MSZP and ÚMKE. This person again turned out to be an “agent” of the government who submitted a question that was clearly unacceptable. It read: “Do you agree that Sunday should be a day of rest for everybody and that stores be closed?” This was rejected because it was “ambiguous.” Well, I would call it outright nonsensical since it is impossible to guarantee everybody a day of rest on Sundays. Since the Kúria, Hungary’s highest court, has 90 days to decide whether the referendum question passes muster or not, this meant further delay.

But that is not the end of the story. In October MSZP had another opportunity to submit its original proposition, for the fourth time. MSZP activists arrived at NVI at 5:30 a.m., but again they were late. This time the following happened. As soon as the Kúria’s website indicated that the Office can again accept new propositions, the politician in charge of MSZP’s effort phoned the activists to tell them to move. But suddenly out of nowhere an older woman and a young man passed them and turned in their question. They beat the socialists by 20 seconds. Well, one could say that the socialist activists were not sufficiently aggressive, but apparently they were told by some official to stand a little farther to the left, which allowed the two tricksters to pass them and register their proposition ahead of the socialists.

This time it was a 65-year-old woman, Mrs. Simon, Gabriella Gercsényi, who was the lucky person. Mrs. Simon has a small store in Tordas, a village of 2,000, which, by the way, is open on Sundays. Her question was: “Do you agree that retail stores could be closed on Sundays?” It was rejected by the head of NVI because Mrs. Simon forgot to attach some annex to her question, without which it was invalid. Yet the National Election Office allowed her to proceed and only asked her to submit the necessary additional documents later. Surely Mrs. Simon wasn’t exactly heartbroken. She knew from the moment she embarked on her adventure into high politics that she was there only to prevent the socialists’ proposal from ever reaching the commission and eventually the high court. Or, at least to slow down the process. MSZP’s question was rejected because, according to the head of the Office, it was basically the same question as that of Mrs. Simon. Anyone can tell at a glance that this wasn’t the case since MSZP’s proposition was still about the abrogation of the Law CII of 2014 that forbade performing work on Sunday in the retail sector.

Since both questions were rejected, Mrs. Simon’s on a technicality and MSZP’s presumably by virtue of its provenance, there was yet another opportunity to race to the Office. This time Mrs. Simon’s young companion showed up and again beat the socialists to the finish line. He resubmitted the same question, with the appropriate documentation. Although the question is ludicrous since any store owner can decide not to open his/her store on Sunday, NVI sent Mrs. Simon’s proposition to NVB, which approved the question. Népszabadság called the decision “stupefying.” Tamás Harangozó, one of the vice-chairmen of MSZP, announced today that he will contest the decision at the Kúria.

One could dismiss all this as a tempest in a teapot, but unfortunately it is not. It shows how hopeless it is to legally challenge the powers that be. Critics of the left-of-center parties often complain about their inability to effectively challenge the government’s undemocratic governance. But, tell me, how can anyone win against the government when all allegedly independent agencies, like the National Election Office and the National Election Committee, are under the government’s thumb? The story of the futile attempt of MSZP politicians to hold a referendum highlights the fact that Hungary is no longer a democracy.

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What do you expect?
Just a gypsy lad funning and blowing smoke, n’est pas?

“…no longer a democracy…”–it’s not even a country. It’s a gulag.


Wow! Gulag? I was allowed to freely leave Hungary a month ago.


@tappanch oops another similarity how religious coalition partners are pushing the Saturday closures
Still remember the unbearable lightness of being on those Saturdays in Israel
Especially when my husband is in the army and I can’t go anywhere without public transportation, can’t buy food or anything a dead place every Saturday.

And just how much I hate fundamentalists! Of any kind, regardless color, religion and language! You didn’t asked, but here you have it, nevertheless. Come on! Time keeps going and it’s a friggin’ one way affair! Time IS changing, technology changes, you are changing – so do I – and we’re still arguing over different religious rules, since thousands of years! Even worse, willingly kill each other over the “perfect” rite to present our submission to “THE” God – even if every religious person have it common, there is only one of such deity supposed to exist. (I’m mostly aware of the variations of the different polytheist fractions as well, but those are largely irrelevant in this case.) Anybody care to explain to me, why is that so important even today to serve churches and clerics on a certain way, instead of, – if you are really that much lacking the integrity of a human that you must relay on some imaginary master of your life – just worship your chosen God the way of your liking? Isn’t the most important thing is that you believe, but the method, how do you perform the rites? Asking as an outsider, without… Read more »

Re: ‘God save us from religious fundamentalists!’

And that’s where the religious and the secular meet. You know Hungary’s lead with Christianity as a platform of the state is a caution on that. Fundamentalism involves exaggerations and a movement to intolerance. And that is a result of marrying politics of the state with personal beliefs.

It’s an understatement now to say it is a combustible combination there. Where Hungary goes on this is anyone’s guess but arguably if we already have that marriage there’s a risk even Christianity will wind up like modern day Islam has namely co-opted and hijacked by rabid believer/extremists who stoke hatred among the entire global community. Arguably there are seeds there yet to be sown.

This is another excellent illustration of the de facto dictatorship, admittedly “light”, brought about by the Orban clique. It also shoots down the argument that this is not yet the case, since there are “normal” legal frames and procedures, independent bodies, etc. Well, sort of, not when it comes to dealing with the government. The new rules for referendums were restrictive enough, but add the actions of the puppets appointed to the NVI (National Election Office) and we have the current farce, where an opposition party reps have to occupy the entrance of the building at dawn in order to clock their submission first and they still somehow get twenty seconds behind a private petitioner coming from nowhere. Secondly, the questions earlier submitted had been prepared by teams of lawyers and experts, only to be all rejected by NVI with ridiculous justifications. Comes our mysterious lady with a laughable question, and, see miracle, this one satisfies the fierce Cerberus. Another common argument is that the existence of one TV and one radio station critical of the regime is a proof of democracy. Like hell it is. E.g. the government made and is making a lot efforts, committing crimes and misdemeanors… Read more »

@Observer (November 17, 2015 at 9:11 pm)

“This is another excellent illustration of the de facto dictatorship, admittedly “light”, brought about by the Orban clique.”

Dictatorship light is dictatorship covered by a curtain of democratic pretenses. The law on referendums is indeed an exellent illustration.


….”his regime has still not resorted to the most drastic measures like total censorship, mass detentions, beatings or murder. But, I suspect, only and until there is no need for such.”

The one thing I disagree with you about Observer is why Orbán has not yet murdered or incarcerated and tortured his critics.

The only thing staying his hand is EU membership, since I am sure that such a violent man would like nothing bettter than to wring the neck of all who oppose his rule, or criticise his tactics.

I think it is imperative that the EU stops all funding to Hungary and finally undertakes some serious independent investigation into the corruption which has seeped into every nook and cranny in all corners of the country, and in all organisations, as so cleverly exposed by this article. Many thanks Éva.

magyar2lips November 18, 2015 at 8:46 am Well, there have been numerous insights into the wretched soul of this character, the latest on the Felcsut railway – if they protest I will double the length .. Orban is a political gypsy horse trader, a very crooked one at that, and brave only when his superiority is guaranteed. However, I think he is malicious and vengeful due to his inferiority complexes, not the villainous, violent kind. That said, in such regimes often the underlings and henchmen overdo and after that the regime has to stand by their own, who feel justified and so the vicious circle closes. (e.g. the murder of father Popieluszko in communist Poland). In conclusion your fears are justified , but for slightly other reasons. I did some writing and footwork around 2010 and then 2013 to wake up some naïve players to the dangers, now materialized by the worst scenario, and suggested “that the EU stops all funding to Hungary and finally undertakes some serious independent investigation into the corruption”, which started to seep into every facet of political life. It would have been much easier to set an example and stem the spread of the virus.… Read more »
Re: ‘Orban style ‘democracy’ Something by Lincoln on his concern of having Congress and the Executive working together to involve the people in helping to develop an effective war policy which was critical for the United States in 1862: ‘……can we do better?” The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew. We must disenthrall our selves, and then we shall save our country’. Possibly helpful in giving and guiding a perspective to those involved in Hungary’s ‘new way’ in the political order as well as those who watch on the sidelines. The house isn’t exactly burning, a bit of smoke though. Now if nobody smells it or ignores it let’s hope they’re good firemen down the line. Their talents and skills along that line will definitely be needed. Fascinating how two men Viktor and Abe, both lawyers, looked to the importance of ‘details’ when governing. Like aggressive hawks always looking for advantage when striking. But the motivation of one veered from the other when it comes to matters of state and its functioning. And on that the country and its denizens… Read more »


Put down the pipe…
Comparing Lincoln and Orban?!!
Because they were both lawyers? (Please remember that Lincoln actually WORKED as a lawyer.) It’s ridiculous to read of the two in the same sentence.


Re: ‘Put down the pipe’

Thank God I did way back when my son was born. Really really deleterious to health. Curious if the country is doing something about it. It’s a killer. I encourage all to ‘put down the pipe’. Sorry I digress but I am concerned about people and things on our small and getting smaller planet if we think about it.

Anyway I just thought Hungary would be better served in her civic matters if she had men like Lincoln in positions of power as opposed to the kind we see and the intellectual clones who simply follow lock-step with the whims of the leader. Extraordinary times demand extraordinary individuals. Arguably Hungary is deficient when it comes to those kinds of personages.



Like your good-natured response…

Yes, well, trying to have ‘men like Lincoln in positions of power’ in Hungary is a pipe-dream. Where would they get Lincoln-like characteristics? Ask most University students in Hungary and they wouldn’t even know who Lincoln was. (Well, they might know since there was a recent film of him.)

But ask Hungarian university students who Thoreau or Emerson were and they wouldn’t have a clue. Far be it for them ever to have read the Gettysburg Address or the letters of Lincoln.

Education in Hungary? Third-rate, at best.

Re: ‘Education in Hungary? Third-rate at best’ If that is true well I feel sad for those who walk on Magyar soil because they are really missing out. An image I’ve always had is of my parents who left the country and lamented the fact that they were sorely lacking in ‘education’. Of course that lamentation fed the following generation in seeing what the world could be like with ‘education’. I’m sure this occurred with others outside my own experience. And I am not the only one who disdains some trends in the country. I think I am lucky that I managed to get an ‘education’. CharlieH ‘from London’ noted he couldn’t understand why people vote the way they do in Hungary. ‘Beats me’ he says. I have to agree as well. And while we’re on the topic of education I’d have to suggest that that is probably the problem. If you can’t make ‘connections, if you can’t cogently look at arguments and weigh evidence, if you can’t think well it’s very easy to succumb to a Panglossian hierarchy where they can put over a seeming fact that Hungarians live truly in the ‘best of all possible worlds’. They love… Read more »

London Calling!

These soldier ants are necessary to stop Orban’s dung heap from collapsing – just as the communists bent the truth to stop the communist dung heap from caving in – it’s still steaming though.

These ‘soldier ants’ give ‘finagling’ a bad name. (Interesting word, Eva! We don’t see it much used this side of the Atlantic – although the late Terry Pratchett was a fond user.)

To be a ‘finagler’ implies a certain cleverness or deviousness.

These shananigans have neither – just pure corruption and dishonesty.

A true bellwether of this government.

With Christmas coming and the way Hungarians have to work all hours and multiple jobs – and considering how patriarchal Hungarian society is – the ‘Matriarch’ will be worn to a frazzle trying to do the Christmas shopping this year.

Why do Hungarians vote for this government?

Beats me.




Not too much OT:
Just got the Xmas advertising from OBI – they’ll be open all of the four Sundays before Xmas, maybe other big shops too.
And Xmas advertising is really big this year, especially toys etc – just wondering where the parents will get all the needed money from.

In Germany already 30 years ago I thought that Xmas was just a “consumer feast” …
Now Hungary is on the same level.


Your near-cryptic blips are baffling, petofi.

To one post wherein I said that the rightwing and those well-into-the-center will exploit the Paris attacks to further their particular political purposes, you responded tersely with “Rubbish”.

WRT another post wherein I posited that Israel is trying to use Hungary as a wedge against the EU’s position on Israel’s dealings with the Palestinians, you accuse me of being “like a Russian troll”.

Neither blip had any meaningful elaboration, as if your terseness should suigeneris satisfy all manner of intellectuality.

It aint enough being the resident contrarian, petofi.
Some intelligence needs to be applied to your blips.


Ndy - Todays story is sickening yet true

Evil, Gangsterlike, Sad, Funny, Beyond Belief, Mindboggling, Shameful (repeat ad infinitum).




“…near-crytic blips…”

I can’t be annotating my submission, but I’ll make an exception on one–re Russian trolling

For several years now I’ve contended that Hungary is Russia’s 5th column in the EU. For you to suggest that it is Israel directing Hungary is to take the focus off Russia, which is really doing so as is evident by Orban’s aping everything that Putin does. Not least of the proofs was Orban’s obeisance on Putin’s visit to Budapest and the latter’s outrageous comment–right in front of Orban–that the ’56-ers were ‘reactionaries’. For this, and many other reasons, I’ve designated Orban as Putin’s ‘step n fechit’.

I don’t know where the crazy notion comes that Israel is in any way influencing or directing the policy shenanigans, or choices, of Orban…

(But I can imagine that when the shit hits the fan, Orban can claim that he & Hungary have been led astray by the jews–namely through Feinstein who was, all along, an Israeli agent…)


I too get fed up with the continual comparisons with Israel on here.

Posters just use Eva’s forum to have a pop at Israel regardless of the relevance of the post.

There is absolutely nothing that compares – non-sequiturs all.

Many Hungarians are obsessed with Israel – we once helped a very poor family to settle in England and they are thriving so well here now.

The father was jobless in Hungary and blamed the banks for foreclosing on his house – and he told me that they wanted his house for the Israelis who were here because they were storing nuclear weapons in Hungary.

I refused any further engagement and just helped them settle. Now in a decent democracy – with decent media – I hope he realises his stupidity.

I don’t suppose buying a house with a Swiss Franc currency was to blame was it?

This must have come from Echo TV.

Barmy barmy barmy. Truly doo Lully tap.

Any posters who introduce Israel become ‘persona non reada’ (© Charlie) and I just glide over them unread.

My Persona Non Reada file (© Charlie) is quite large now – you know who you are.


Charlie: I think it is very important to introduce Jewish issues on this forum. We are doing it in comments and Eva does it in the blogs for at least dozen of times. Often the point is that the Orban government proved it over and over agin their position of not giving any consideration of the Jewish population of Hungary. Orban referred to the Hungarian Jewish population as they would be some outsiders. When Orban promised, then neglected to discuss the shameful Occupation monument with its kitch angel, and falsified history, he very much kicked the Jewish population of Hungary, and Jews in general in the behind. It is very peculiar why would Orban and his gang suddenly start to “sympathize” with any Jewish issues. In fact why would Orban suddenly feel the need to suck up to Israel. My reading is that the only thing that he dislikes more than the Jewish issue of Hungary is to not support well enough his anti-immigrant, anti-muslim, “let’s get the army on the streets” agenda.
In no way I am attacking Israel, I am very concerned as to why and who Orban aligns with in this game.


Apologies Some1 – I may have not been clear enough.

Of course Jewish issues and culture in connection with Hungary is a valid aspect in Eva’s Spectrum of Hungary. In fact it’s essential in understanding Hungary.

But the situation in Israel and its politics – including ‘Bibi’ – has absolutely no place here.


Got it. Thank you!


re: US and jewish refugees before and during war II

And, sad to say, Canada’s response was no better, either.


Just saw a detailed discussion of this on – the same picture, but a different date.
Well, it’s been a long time.


“A Forward magazine article reported that the head of Canadian immigration at the time, Frederick Charles Blair, “believed an international Jewish conspiracy was trying to skirt Canadian immigration policies by sneaking the refugees into the country.”

Sound familiar?

Or maybe this quote from the book “The Making of the Mosaic: A History of Canadian Immigration Policy” that said even after the war, “as public-opinion polls demonstrated, Jewish refugees were regarded as an alien race, incapable of assimilating into the Canadian way of life.”


The Orban Mentality in 1939
Hate has an immediate appeal to the hateful, of which Hungary has more than its share (domestically and in its former refugees who have found democratic haven worldwide but many of whom have learned nothing). Fortunately, in the civilized world, this hatefulness is in the minority today, even when stoked by fear.


Re: ‘Fortunately, in the civilized world, this hatefulness is in the minority today, even when stoked by fear’

Hope it stays that way.

But just an observation. I recently saw a piece on PBS where a journalist was given access to the jihadist training of young children in Afghanistan to kill the ‘non-believers’. Absolutely chilling. To think that the generation seen would be indoctrinated continually with tenets of extremist Islam makes it a horror show in the future for global jihad. Those children are simply taught to bear the compunction of killing mercilessly and brutally with no emotion whatsoever. I just thought as I watched that many are marked to die already both victims and perpetrators since they will be out and about a few years ahead to sow their destruction. For that the ‘civilized’ world must be ready for these ruthless automatons or we will be burned toast.Their hate is not one to dissipate. Democracies will be hard pressed to deal with them.


Alas, with today’s technology even a small psychopathic minority can do untold damage to the decent majority worldwide.

“But, tell me, how can anyone win against the government when all allegedly independent agencies, like the National Election Office and the National Election Committee, are under the government’s thumb?” First of all, it is the same old, same old that has characterized this government since its inception: Control, Control, Control. What we have read above on the ‘administrative’ difficulties in efforts to hold a referendum strongly reminds one of the cynical activities of the Media Council with respect to Klub Radio in the (successful) effort to destroy its outreach to the country. One hears that the Quaestor case has come back into the news with the cries of investors on the losing end insisting that they be compensated for their losses. We already know that the government suffered few (or minimal) losses thanks to the cynical exploitation of insider information by the Prime Minister who in a bare-faced lie denied that he had instructed agencies (and friends) to remove their money from the about-to-fail enterprise. What is wanted here is an independent judicial enquiry into the use of insider information by government officials, just as the actions of the Media Council should have received judicial condemnation and just as… Read more »

Unfortunately my feeling is that it is “later”, all things normal. I used to joke that if Orban introduced cannibalism, there still be close to a million faithful who approve.

Joke aside, there has been a dozen scandals on the corruption front alone, the private pension fund sequestration was dubbed safekeeping for the protection of the retirees, in the Questor one nobody knows yet where is the HUF 100 billion collected against bogus bonds, in the age of computer transfers !?! Orban has never lied !! The rantings on Echo TV by crooks and halfwits, the acceptance of the former by brain washed half idiots.

And after all Fidesz is the most popular party.
What do you expect from these Hungarians?


Not exactly cheap, but those “absentee ballots”, that is votes by ethnic Hungarians from Vajdaság (Serbia) are indeed important. Jobbik is there to, now it’s Fidesz turn. The left is hopeless when it comes to having access to 1 million ethnic Hungarian votes, not a small portion.


It’s interesting to see how quickly Fidesz trolls respond when anything related to Paks is posted.

Apparently this is a priority issue for the government. It’s sad that Fidesz people (apparently) think arguments made here will have any effect whatsoever on decisions made in Brussels, regarding the legality of the Paks contract.

Is there ANY aspect of international relations that these people have even the slightest comprehension of?

Anyway, it’s nice that they’ve finally found people with a fairly decent mastery of English to post their lies. Must be expensive!

Fidesz troll-bating tip no. 1. Mention Paks 2 and that it might be off. Sit back and watch the reaction.


“Sit back and watch the reaction.”

The chain-reaction you mean, don’t you?
They’re just ‘radiating’ optimism, future’s shining bright..!

Guest «petofi» Since we are not privy to your thoughts specifically, although we know how you think generally, petofi, it behooves you to explain, or even to explicate (if you want to take it to a higher level) your posts, otherwise many (more?) will just view your blips as the eructations of a curmudgeon. Thereafter, if you so choose, you can annotate. I am aware of your Russia focus, petofi. Perhaps that is the reason that you tried to link me to Russia, however I neither mentioned Russia, nor did I allude to Russia, nor was there any implication referencing Russia. «exTor» “… suggest that it is Israel directing Hungary …” I did not say (or imply) that Israel has any input with respect to Hungary’s foreign policy. My point (re labeling of produce from Israel) was that Hungary’s position is that food imports from Israel need not be labeled according to the region of Israel where the food was produced. Hungary’s position is contrary to the EU position, which requires labeling by region [eg: Golan Heights]. Israel opposes the EU position on Israeli food-source labeling, because the EU position interferes with Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. It is to… Read more »

ex Tor Petofi holds the record on this blog for calling people Trolls. He called me one several times it goes with the territory. On the other hands I think his positions as curious as they may be do exist within Hungary and in the expat community too.

I have a cousin in Esztergom, well he actually lives on Banomi ut just outside of town, who argues exactly like Petofi. If I drink sufficient Pálinka he makes a great deal of sense.



Nice to know that you can put down your weapon and deliver yourself of your ex-military opinions.

I feel for your cousin in Esztergom–a town that certainly has experienced the full force of Orban’s crudity; and is on full display as to what happens when you stand in the way of a Fidesz majority and leadership. Of course, at the next regional elections country-wide, every region voted Fidesz. What popularity!
(How can you counter that, thinks Bruxelles…Orban is ‘loved’ by all!)