Hungary is holding a referendum on Sunday

Article published on March 3, 2008
Article published on March 3, 2008
March 2, 2008 The main opposition party Fidesz and its ally the Christian Democrat Party (KDNP) initiated a referendum one and a half year ago on banning tuition, visiting and daily hospital fees. Due to the long official procedures, the referendum is scheduled to be held only on Sunday, March 9.
According to the opposition, the so call "social referendum" represents the rejection of the government’s “reform rampage”, including the major heath care reform. Fidesz also claims that a successful referendum will be symbolic and “could mark a new political era. Prime Minister Gyurcsány insists though that the referendum will not affect the essence of the reforms and that parliamentary elections were not due until 2010, so the outcome was immaterial.

MSZP and the Socialists’ led cabinet launched an intense PR campaign promoting the health care reform (including the positive outcomes of the visiting fee and the daily hospital fee) and the introduction of the tuition fee in higher education. Their main reasoning says that the “the lack of any effort cannot result a strong Hungary”. The Socialists attempt to rationally persuade their supporters in the name of “common sense” and will not want voters to regard the referendum as a vote on the government and the Prime Minister. The goal is clearly to calm the general mood and keep turnout low. Their declared strategic aim is to have as low a defeat as possible, an unusual campaign message.

Fidesz has launched an emotional campaign. Fidesz is striving to elevate the political significance of the referendum by stressing the potential consequences of a valid Yes vote, such as the fall of Gyurcsány, the collapse of the Socialist Party or a change of government. The party is building on dissatisfaction with the Prime Minister.

The junior coalition partner Free Democrats (SZDSZ) has embarked on a clear negative campaign, saying the rejection of the current reforms would represent the sustention of the communist-era Kádár regime.