Monday, December 6, 2004

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More non-barking dogs in international relations

Last month I pointed out the tendency to focus on the parts of the globe in turmoil, occasionally neglecting non-events in places where everyone predicted turmoil.

Christopher Condon reports in the Financial Times about one of these non-barking dogs:

A referendum in Hungary on granting citizenship to ethnic Hungarians living abroad, a proposal that had divided the country and angered its neighbours, flopped on Sunday because of low turnout.

Of those who voted, 51.5 per cent approved the proposal, but not enough votes were cast to make the referendum count.

Referendums in Hungary are not valid unless either 50 per cent of eligible voters turn out or 25 per cent of those eligible vote one way.

Only 37.4 per cent of eligible voters cast ballots, and, with more than 99 per cent of the vote counted, the total Yes vote equalled only 18.9 per cent of the eligible electorate....

Despite a fiery campaign by proponents appealing to voters to reunite the nation, at least under one passport, most Hungarian citizens were apparently unmoved.

The referendum's rejection will quickly defuse tensions that arose in recent days between Hungary and neighbouring countries that were angered by the proposal, calling it provocative and intrusive....

The result also marks a victory for Ferenc Gyurcsany, Hungary's prime minister. Mr Gyurcsany called on voters to reject the measure or to simply stay at home. His government said the measure would cost the state budget an additional Ft500bn (€2bn, £1.4bn, $2.8bn) annually, or 2.5 per cent of GDP.

For fifteen years, a latent worry of East and Central Europe watchers was that Hungarian nationalism would rile its neighbors and trigger sectarian violence. The failure of this referendum is the fitting coda to easing that concern.

posted by Dan on 12.06.04 at 12:35 AM