National Election Committee green lights referendum on EU settlement quota

March 1, 2016

gavel

The National Election Committee voted 9-3 on Monday to validate the government’s referendum question concerning the rejection of the EU quota on resettling refugees, reports Hungarian news site Index.huThe question reads: “Do you want the European Union to mandate without the consent of the National Assembly that non-Hungarian citizens be settled in Hungary?”

National Election Committee Chairman András Patyi argued on behalf of validating the question because it presents voters with a simple “Yes” or “No” question. Patyi also argued that, assuming the referendum takes place, an affirmative vote would have clear consequences for Hungary’s legislature.

The committee’s Socialist (MSZP) and Politics Can Be Different (LMP) party delegates countered Patyi’s position, arguing that referendums cannot be held on international agreements.

Patyi rejected the MSZP and LMP position and said the quota referendum is not off limits because it does not clash with Hungary’s international agreements.

According to Patyi, the referendum question has to do with sovereignty and that is something the National Assembly has jurisdiction over. He said it is in the National Assembly’s jurisdiction to decide to what extent Hungary’s sovereignty can be curtailed.

Immediately after the vote, both the Hungarian Liberal Party (MLP) and Dialogue for Hungary (PM) announced they would challenge the National Election Committee’s decision at the Curia (supreme court).

There is no shortage of Hungarian legal scholars who claim that this referendum question is unconstitutional. One group of legal scholars regularly provides legal commentary on Hungarian investigative journalism site Átlátszó.hus blog Így Írnánk Mi.

According to the blog’s authors, the anti-quota referendum question bleeds from a thousand cuts. For example, the question must be easily understood by the electorate and must have clear instructions for the legislature (if passed). But they say the question can be interpreted in a number of ways and there are no clear legislative instructions for parliament in the event of the referendum passing.

The author’s of Így Írnánk Mi list several reasons why the law should be challenged in the court and say it may go all the way to the Constitutional Court, which is likely to rule in favor of the government. The mandates of three justices are set to expire soon and (assuming no replacements are pushed through) all that is needed is a simple majority of justices (six justices in an already Fidesz-stacked court) to rule along party lines against years of legal precedent.