Cabinet minister Antal Rogán announced in parliament that the government had decided to ask parliament to rescind the 2015 law making it illegal for retailers over a certain size to hold Sunday hours. The law is deeply unpopular with Hungarian voters.
Rogán, who in addition to being cabinet minister is also a member of parliament, reportedly called on his fellow parliamentarians to take immediate action, reports Hungarian news site Origo.hu.
Too bad for MSZP
The Hungarian Socialist Party’s (MSZP) proposed referendum on the Sunday store closure law afforded Hungary’s second-largest opposition party to win over disaffected Fidesz-KDNP supporters. By openly calling for the end to mandatory Sunday closures, MSZP made minor gains in the polls, thereby arresting the former governing party’s inexorable slide into oblivion. Its forthcoming referendum was expected to appeal to millions of Hungarians who want the controversial law canned for good.
MSZP will no doubt seek to take political credit for the government’s decision to rescind the law. However, most political analysts agree that MSZP stood to gain much more had the government continued to oppose attempts to overturn the unpopular legislation.
KDNP helps Orbán save face
Originally sold to the public as the initiative of the Christian Democratic People’s Party (KDNP), according to one political analyst we spoke to, the law “came straight from Prime Minister Orbán, for God only knows what reason”. The law appeared to be consistent with attempts by Fidesz to bolster domestic grocery store chains in the face of stiff competition from multi-national chains such as Tesco, Auchan, Spar, Lidl, Penny Market and Aldi.
Although Fidesz needs the support of KDNP MPs to change cardinal laws, were it not for its political alliance with Fidesz, KDNP would have a hard time seating MPs as the party has little support among the electorate.
The last time KDNP effectively entered parliament alone as a national party was in 1994. They failed to repeat that in 1998 and 2002, prompting the party to form a permanent political alliance with Fidesz. With the exception of a handful of MPs, the majority of its parliamentary delegation owes its seat to the fact that they ran for election as the joint Fidesz-KDNP candidate.
All this would explain KDNP parliamentary fraction leader Péter Harrach’s statement today, when he said,
Look, we’re lucky enough to be in the situation where – as a small party premised on a world view – we don’t have to fall into despair over a decrease or increase in popularity. I think we will continue to have the support that we need and, if we stay loyal, then our supporters will continue to support us.