Posted on 12/05/03 in European Union
Referendum in Hungary, April 12
The referendum on the accession in Hungary did not bring a surprising result: more than 80% of the voters were in favour, just as predicted according to the polls. Several other aspects of the voting and the preparations however remain obscure. First of all, there was an unexpectedly low rate of participants in the referendum, just a small percentage above the threshold. There are several ways of explaining this, the simplest but the closest to reality is that a huge majority of the people had no clear picture of the consequences of the ticking.
The government’s campaign for the accession was strongly criticised. No wonder: all an ordinary citizen could learn about the enlarged Europe was that one would be able to open a confectionery in Vienna and that Hungarians can still eat poppy-seed sweets. The ordinary citizen however did not worry too much about these options, and the much more crucial questions – such as social security, taxes, and regulations – were not discussed at all. Moreover, there was no forum provided to chew on unclear issues, unless if we count the “questionnaires” sent to every bread-earner, read: the men as head of the family. The citizens were supposed to send these letters back to the central office, selecting up to three questions he wants to get an answer for.
The political parties’ attitude towards the accession would be also interesting to analyse – the parties agreed already before last years’ election campaign that they would not touch topics connected to the enlargement or the EU in general. The argument was that the parties should come up with such a significant issue in the playground of political bargaining. The outcome of this strategy is known already: mystery and dozens of question marks around the accession. An exciting highlight of the process was when Viktor Orban – leader of the fictional conservative popular movement, former PM who failed to be re-elected – announced that he (= they) were opposing the accession at this early moment (read: led by the socialists). This statement, an obvious auto-goal slightly moved to emphasising the expectable negative consequences of the accession, of which one single point has remained: the finding that government’s campaign was poor. No doubt about it. But in fact it turned out that there are not too many people – not talking about institutions – all across the country who have a constructive objection, suggestion, opinion or even a tiny remark beyond the purely black and white demagogy.
There is an empty field between the poles of the centralised, utopistic mainstream visions and the simplistic, national-oriented, emotionally based and marginally represented counterpole on this really important historical event we are just going through. From this point of view we might conclude that the outcome, despite of the extremely low participation, was luckily, probably even accidentally fortunate. At least it outlines a clear position for the greens in the very near future: the need to promote the demand for a proper choice, active participation in the decision-making, emphasise the role of healthy critiques and raise our voices, even if our eventual decision is a definite yes.