Act XVII of 1989
on Referendum and Popular Initiative1
In Hungary it is a basic constitutional principle that the people are the holders of power; this power is exercised through their representatives. Beside the continuous efforts for the effective operation of representational organs, the democratic development of the system of political institutions also includes the ability of the people to exercise power directly in issues of unusual social political or other significance; for them to be a part of, a determiner and also active participant of the most important central and local level government decisions.
With regard to this foundation in principle and also in consideration of paragraph (4) of Article 19. of the Constitution, Parliament shall create the following Act on Referendum and Popular Initiative:
Art. 1. (1) The referendum and the popular initiative shall be a constitutional right of citizens and the community of citizens, which provides direct participation in the exercising of power.
(2) Every citizen shall be entitled - in public areas also - to collect signatures in the interest of originating a referendum or a popular initiative, and also to carry out organisation work with the aim of collecting signatures.
(3) Citizens participating in the collection of signatures and the organisation of signature collection, as well as those who support the popular initiative or the referendum - in accordance with the statutes of this Act - shall practice their constitutional rights determined in paragraph (1).
(4)2 Signatures shall not be collected at a place of work and during the carrying out of a duty of work arising out of an obligation of employment; from persons serving at armed forces and armed bodies, at the station of service or during the carrying out of an official task; on vehicles of public transportation; in the parts of a medical institution where the sick are cared for.
Art. 2 (1) Citizens having suffrage (citizens henceforth) shall be entitled to participate in the referendum and popular initiative.
(2) - (3)3
(4) In the instance of citizens originating the popular initiative and the referendum the conditions for suffrage have to be fulfilled at the time of the origination.
Art. 3.4 A referendum and the exercise of a popular initiative may take place at the national level (national referendum).
Art. 4.5 (1) The subject of the referendum - with the exclusion as determined by this Act - may be an issue in the competence of Parliament.
(2) The result of a referendum ordered with the aim of making a decision shall be compulsory for Parliament.
(3) The result of a referendum for the presentation of opinion provides for the citizens’ participation in the making of decisions of Parliament.
(4) The popular initiative aims for the making of decisions in the competence of Parliament.
Art. 5. (1) A nation-wide referendum may be ordered:
a) for the confirmation of acts passed by Parliament, as well as
b) in decisions in the competence of Parliament, thus especially: in the subject of deciding on the passing of a bill, the determination of the principles of the bill, and in issues of nation-wide significance that do not require a bill format.
(2) A decision reached as part of the referendum shall be compulsory to Parliament. Accordingly:
a) an act not confirmed by referendum on the basis of subparagraph a) of paragraph (1) of Article 5 may not be promulgated;
b) the result of the referendum according to subparagraph b) of paragraph (1) shall determine the further work of Parliament in the given issue.
Art. 6. (1) Referendum shall not be ordered for:
a) the acts on the budget, the central tax types and stamp duties, nor on the central conditions for local taxes;
b) decisions (appointments) in personnel issues falling under the competence of Parliament;
c) the fulfilment of obligations accepted in international agreements, nor for the acts promulgating these agreements.
(2) The prohibition expressed in subparagraph c) of paragraph (1) shall not pertain to the confirmation or rejection of the future acceptance of obligations arising out of international agreements, nor to the extending of expired international agreements by referendum.
Art. 7. The acknowledgement (confirmation) of the Constitution shall be decided by referendum.
Art. 8. (1) The referendum shall be originated by:
a)6 the President of the Republic;
b)7 the Government;
c) at least 50 members of Parliament;
d) at least 50 thousand citizens.
(2) the organ as well as the persons originating the referendum shall also make a proposition on the wording of the question (questions) to be put to referendum.
(3) The referendum shall be originated at the Speaker of Parliament.
(4) Initiatives received from persons and organs other than in paragraph (1), obviously not authorised, as well as initiatives enjoying the support of less citizens than determined in subparagraph d) of paragraph (1) shall be rejected by the Speaker of Parliament.
Art. 9. (1) The nation-wide referendum shall be ordered by Parliament, at the session nearest in time to the time of the handing over of the initiation, but no later than within two months.
(2) The ordering of the nation-wide referendum shall require the two-thirds vote of the members of Parliament.
(3) The Parliamentary resolution containing the ordering of the referendum shall include:
a) the question (questions) to be put to the referendum, on the basis of the proposal of the legal, administrative and justice standing committees, as well as
b) the date of the referendum.
(4) The nation-wide referendum shall be held within three months of its ordering.
(5) Parliament shall also bring a resolution for the rejection of the initiative.8
Art. 10. (1) Parliament shall be obliged to order the referendum as determined in paragraph (2) of Article 4., if at least 100 thousand initiates it.
(2) Parliament’s resolution on the ordering of the referendum shall contain:
a) the question (questions) expressed in the initiative - to be put to the referendum - as well as
b) the decision with regards to the date of the referendum.
Art. 11. (1) In the range of subjects as determined by subparagraph b) of paragraph (1) of Article 5. a referendum expressing opinion may also be ordered.
(2) The initiation and ordering of a referendum for the expressing of opinion shall be governed by Articles 8 and 9.
(3) Parliament may also order the referendum for the expressing of opinions in the procedural form pertaining to that of a social debate.
Art. 12 to 16.9
Art. 17. (1)10 A popular initiative may present to Parliament all issues whose decision lies in its field of competence.
(2) The popular initiative shall include in an accurate and unambiguous manner the issue (issues) that are proposed to be debated or decided upon.
Art. 18. (1) A popular initiative addressed to Parliament may be handed over to the Speaker of Parliament by at least 10 thousand citizens.
(2) The Speaker of Parliament shall at the first sitting of the session following the handing over be obliged to announce the popular initiative.
(3) Parliament, in the subject of placing the popular initiative on the agenda - after hearing the competent standing committee - shall bring a decision as part of the determination of the subject range of the session.
(4) Parliament shall be obliged to place the debate of the subject as determined by the popular initiative on the agenda if requested by at least 50 thousand citizens.
Rules of Procedure
Art. 20. (1)12 The holding of the referendum, the determination of its result - with the amendments and differences as prescribed in this Act - shall be governed by the statutes of the Act on the Election of the Members of Parliament13 (the act on suffrage henceforth).
(2)14 In the case of the ordering of a nation-wide referendum Parliament may determine deadlines and due dates different from those determined in the act on suffrage.
Art. 21. (1)15 The forms containing the initiation of the popular initiative and the citizens’ initiation of a referendum - apart from the signatures - the legible name and address of the initiating person shall be indicated, as well as his or her natural identification data or personal identification code.16
(2) All of the signature collection forms shall be headed by the question (questions) proposed for the referendum, or by the expressing of the subject of the popular initiative.
(3)17 Signatures collected in violation of the proscription as determined by paragraph (4) of Article 1. shall be void.
Art. 22. (1) The Speaker of Parliament shall forward the citizens’ initiative (signature collection forms) aiming for a nation-wide referendum, as well as for popular initiative within 8 days of their receipt to the National Electoral Board.
(2) The National Electoral Board - by way of the local electoral boards - shall provide for the authentication of the referendum-initiative and the popular initiative.
Art. 23. (1) Authentication shall mean the checking of the numbers prescribed by this Act, as well as the identification of the citizens who have signed the initiation of the referendum and the popular initiative on the basis of the national population statistics18, with the sole purpose of the determination of suffrage and place of residence.
(2) In the case of a well founded doubt arising with regard to the originality of the signatures during the authentication, the electoral board may - at random - also examine personal identification.
(3) The authentication shall be completed within 30 days.
(4) During the carrying out of authentication the citizen - with purpose of identification - may not be summoned.
(5) The National Electoral Board shall inform the Speaker of Parliament of the result of the authentication process in writing.
(6) In the case of a failure during authentication Parliament
a) shall reject the initiative of a referendum on the basis of subparagraph d) of Article 8., and also the popular initiative based on paragraph (1) of Article 18., or avoid meritorious discussion thereof;
b) shall reject the initiative with the purpose of ordering a referendum on the basis of paragraph (1) of Article 10., and the popular initiative on the basis of paragraph (4) of Article 18., and simultaneously shall consider them as if they had been handed in on the basis of subparagraph d) of Article 8., and paragraph (1) of Article 18.
(7) Authentication shall not be considered failed up to the time when the number of signatures available for consideration shall not fall under the number determined by the act.
Art. 24. (1) The National Electoral Board shall inform the Speaker of Parliament on the result of the nation-wide referendum in writing.
(2) The result of the nation-wide referendum shall be published in the daily newspapers and the populace shall be informed by means of the other mass communication tools.
(3) Parliament shall at its next session include the result of the referendum in a resolution.20
(4) - (5)21
Art. 25. (1) The question (questions) to be put to the referendum shall be composed in a way which shall facilitate the unambiguous answer of every citizen.
(2) All issues - with numbering - to be decided during the referendum shall be indicated on a ballot paper.
Art. 26. The resolution deciding on the holding of a referendum:
a) shall in the case of a nation-wide referendum: in the Hungarian Gazette and in the national daily newspapers;
Art. 27. (1)23 Citizens participating in the referendum shall be included in a register on the basis of the Act on the Election of Members of Parliament. The register of voters shall be put on public display for 8 days in the room of the local government office and the date for this shall be announced in the manner customary to that place. At the same time - also in the manner customary to that place - the voters shall be informed of the ordering of the referendum, as well as the day of the ballot and the address of the polling station.
(2)24 In the case of a referendum for the confirmation of the Constitution and other acts, the legal regulations shall be published in every national and local daily newspaper.
Art. 28. (1) The nation-wide referendum shall be valid and have result if
a) more than half of all the voters of the country have cast a valid vote and
b) more than half of the valid voters have given an identical answer (answers) to the expressed question (questions).
(2)25 A referendum that contains three or more choices of answers shall also have result, if the validly voters according to subparagraph a) of paragraph (1) have given the most identical answers to the question.
Art. 30. (1)28 The nation-wide referendum shall be held in the polling wards determined prior to the referendum for the election of the members of parliament.
Art. 31. (1)30 A nation-wide referendum shall not be set for an identical question within two years.
(2) Following the referendum abnegating (rejecting) the confirmation of the new Constitution a new referendum shall be called for within 1 year.
(3) The modification of an act confirmed by referendum - in the two years following its being promulgated - may happen also according to the general constitutional prescriptions pertaining to legislation.
(4)31 A nation-wide referendum may not be called for within 60 days before and after the day of the election of the members of parliament, as well as that of the representatives of local government and mayors.
Art. 32. (1) A constitutional complaint may be handed in to the Constitution Court because of the rejection of the ordering of the referendum and the meritorious debate of the subject of the popular initiative on the basis of failed authentication, as well as the violation of the lawful prescriptions pertaining to the holding of the referendum and the determination of the vote result.
(2) The constitutional complaint may be propounded by the governmental and civic organisations entitled to initiate a referendum.
(3) Because of the law infringing nature of the referendum initiated by citizens
a) in the case of the nation-wide referendum at least 500;
b) - d)32
(4) Because of the rejection of the meritorious debate of the popular initiative on the basis of failed authentication
a) in the case of the national popular initiative at least 200;
b) - d)33
(5) A citizen in the case of him/her being excluded from the register may exercise legal redress according to the act on suffrage.
Art. 33.34 The costs of the nation-wide referendum shall burden the central budget.
Art. 35. (1) This Act shall enter into effect on the day of its promulgation.
(2) The statute under subparagraph c) of paragraph (1) of Article 6. does not pertain to international agreements signed prior to this Act entering into force and connected to major development whose environmental effects only became fully known after the agreement had been signed.
1) Promulgated: June 15, 1989. Statutes concerning local referendum and popular initiative were abrogated by:Paragraph (1) of Article 115. of Act LXV of 1990.
2) Enacted by:Article 1. of Act XLVI of 1990.Effective: from July 11, 1990.
3) Statutes concerning local referendum and popular initiative were abrogated by: Paragraph (1) of Article 115. of Act LXV of 1990. Ineffective as of: September 30, 1990
4) Modified by: paragraph of Article 115 of Act LXV of 1990.
5) Modified by: paragraph (1) of Article 115 of Act LXV of 1990.
6) Modified by: paragraph (2) of Article 38 of Act XXXI of 1989.
7) Modified by: paragraph (2) of Article 51 of Act XL of 1990.
8) See Parliament Resolution 27/1989. (October 10) OGY
9) Statutes concerning local referendum and popular initiative were abrogated by: Paragraph (1) of Article 115. of Act LXV of 1990. Ineffective as of: September 30, 1990
10) Modified: on the basis of paragraph (1) of Article 115 of Act XLV of 1990.
11) Statutes concerning local referendum and popular initiative were abrogated by: Paragraph (1) of Article 115. of Act LXV of 1990. Ineffective as of: September 30, 1990.
12) Numbering modified by: Article 1. of Act XXXIX of 1989. Modified: on the basis of paragraph (1) of Article 115. of Act XLV of 1990.