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Mar 23, 2017 - Zoltán Kovács

The national consultation and why we listen to the people

The national consultation has become an especially useful method in recent years to invite citizen participation in the decision-making process between election cycles

We’ve turned to the consultation to solicit citizen input on a number of high-priority issues since 2010, including the new Fundamental Law, economic issues, social security, the situation of pensioners and immigration. We’re preparing to hold another national consultation to address five major challenges the prime minister named earlier this year.

The national consultation consists of a questionnaire mailed by the state to every household in Hungary. It’s less expensive and faster than a referendum, and we use the results to help decision-making.

We’ll be publishing soon the questions for the upcoming consultation, which focus on the five biggest challenges Hungary confronts this year, the issues that Prime Minister Orbán laid out in his state of the nation speech. “Hungary is facing such a tough battle that the government will be barely able to win on its own,” the prime minister said in a radio interview last week, referring to the importance of popular support. “[T]his needs national unity.”

The issues concern national sovereignty, the independence to self-govern and the protection of national competences against Brussels’ creeping power grab.

“First, Brussels attempts to ban the [government policy calling for the] reduction of overhead costs,” Prime Minister Orbán said, referring to government-mandated utility price cuts. “Second, illegal immigration. Third, foreign attempts to influence [government policies]. Fourth, attacks from Brussels on Hungary’s tax reduction [policies]. And fifth, attacks from Brussels on our programs to create jobs.”

To defend against these threats, the government seeks the input and backing of the citizens. A national agreement on Hungary’s position is a necessary first step and “the wider and more complete the agreement, the better,” according to Prime Minister Orbán. Not all European member states go to such lengths to solicit citizen views, but it’s important to listen to the voice of the citizens because their support gives legitimacy to a decision and because, sooner or later, the people will make their voice heard.