Opposition Hails Govt Climbdown As ‘Victory’

  • 12 Apr 2016 9:00 AM
Opposition Hails Govt Climbdown As ‘Victory’
Socialist lawmaker István Nyakó said that the government decision to revoke the law on Sunday shopping restrictions was “a small victory for the opposition Socialists and a big one for the electorate”. For the second time, the ruling parties have been forced to “back off”, Nyakó said, referring to demonstrations that resulted in the withdrawal of plans to introduce an internet tax in the past.

In the light of the government decision, the referendum initiative has become unnecessary, he said. At the same time, a criminal act still occurred at the election office on Feb. 23, he said.

As long as it is not known who planned it and organised it, “democracy is in a state of emergency in the country”.

Party leader József Tóbiás said the decision was a “victory for the people and for democracy”.

“The government has surrendered,” he said, adding it is now clear the government cannot go “over people’s heads” when deciding on issues that affect their daily lives.

He added, however, that the Socialists would continue to seek a referendum on hot topics, such as the sale of stateowned farmland or salary caps for public officials.

The Christian Democrats said they understood the government’s point of view and accepted its decision, although they did not consider it a failure for the party as “the law that was implemented was unlike their original idea,” said party leader Péter Harrach.

Deputy Prime Minister Zsolt Semjén said the Christian Democrats would abstain in the vote on revoking the law and would continue to “campaign for free Sundays”.

The radical nationalist Jobbik party said “nobody should be forced to work on Sundays”, if they do, it should be out of their own will, with a fair supplementary pay.

The opposition Democratic Coalition (DK) urged parliament to vote as soon as possible on revoking Sunday shopping restrictions. Spokesman Zsolt Gréczy said the government announcement could also be considered DK’s success because the party had submitted the first referendum initiative on the subject.

The opposition Együtt party said the decision reflects the government’s “fright” over the fact that Hungarian people disfavour the Sunday restriction.

If Fidesz revoked laws people disliked it would have to abandon the construction of sports stadiums and other vanity projects, lawmaker Szabolcs Szabó said.

The opposition Dialogue for Hungary party would propose to lawmakers that after revoking the Sunday work ban and going back to the status quo ante, the rule which doubles pay for Sunday work introduced since should be kept, spokesman Bence Tordai said.

Economy Minister Mihály Varga said the ministry had conducted an assessment of the Sunday shopping restrictions which would be published later on.

Retail sales, far from being hampered, actually grew by 5.6% last year, he said. Employment in the retail sector was up by 3,300 at the end of 2015 compared with a year earlier, and even now there are 6,600 unfilled jobs in the sector.

Last week, Hungary’s supreme court approved the Socialists’ referendum question, overturning an earlier decision by the National Election Committee.

The ruling brought an end to a drawn-out dispute over an incident that occurred on Feb. 23 when the Socialist lawmaker making the party’s referendum submission, Nyakó, was held up by “thugs” just long enough for a rival question to be handed in.

The timing of the submissions is significant because Hungary’s current referendum law states that while a question is being examined by a court, it is not possible to submit another question on the same subject.

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