CÖF says 138,000 signatures not enough to force Olympics referendum

February 10, 2017

A spokesman for the pro-government civil organization Civil Unity Forum (CÖF) has declared in pro-government daily Magyar Idők that the 138,000 signatures required by election law to force a referendum on Budapest’s bid to host the 2024 Summer Olympics may not in fact be legally sufficient, reports index.hu.

According to Zoltán Lomnici Jr., spokesman for the Fidesz-aligned CÖF, Budapest election law dictates that at least 10 percent of the city’s residents must provide a valid signature for a referendum to take place. As of January 10, when the referendum question was accepted by the Budapest Election Office, there were 1,385,262 permanent Budapest residents, and therefore 138,526 + 1 valid signatures must be collected.

However Lomnici, a constitutional lawyer, argues that since both permanent residents and those in possession of Budapest-based address cards are permitted to vote in a referendum, “professional debates are ongoing about whether the number of necessary signatures will change in parallel. The game, in sport parlance, is far from over,” Lomnici said, indicating CÖF will likely contest the validity of the signature campaign if the required amount is achieved.

The Budapest Election Office told index.hu that it would not modify the original number of required signatures, saying the office “does not have the means to advance the possible decision of a legal redress forum.” If CÖF decides to take further action, the case could go all the way to Hungary’s highest court, index reports.

The “Nolimpia” signature collection campaign was initiated three weeks ago by the Momentum Movement, a political organization with ambitions of running in 2018 elections as an opposition party. The group, with assistance from other opposition parties and volunteers, has until next Thursday to collect the necessary signatures to force a referendum. Momentum Movement argues that the expenses incurred by Hungary in hosting the Olympic Games would be better spent on things such as education and health-care, and that Budapest citizens should have a right to decide democratically on whether to host the Olympics.

Lomnici’s statements indicate that CÖF disagrees.