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UPDATED: 13:41, December 06, 2004
Low voter turnout invalidates Hungarian referendum on citizenship
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A referendum on whether to give citizenship to ethnic Hungarians aboard failed Sunday because of low voter turnout, preliminary official results showed.

Final turnout to the referendum to determine whether ethnic Hungarians in neighboring countries should be allowed to acquire Hungarian citizenship was just over 37 percent, well below the threshold of 50 percent to make the referendum binding.

Of all voters, 18.8 percent cast ballots in favor of granting dual citizenship and 17.7 percent voted against.

The question of dual citizenship stirred strong feelings in Hungary and among some of its neighbors. Supporters said giving ethnic Hungarians dual citizenship would help heal the old wounds of Trianon, the 1920 treaty that dismantled the Austro-Hungarian Empire and took away two-thirds of Hungary's land and 60 percent of its population.

But the government campaigned against it, saying giving Hungarian passports to so many people in countries with lower living standards would trigger mass migration and cripple Hungary's overburdened budget.

Five million ethnic Hungarians live outside the country and 2.5million of them live in poorer countries such as Romania, Croatia and Ukraine, who were especially vocal in supporting the referendum, saying that obtaining dual citizenship would give ethnic Hungarians an added sense of security and greater motivation to stay in their homeland. They were dismayed by the negative result.

A second referendum, which is on ending hospital privatization also failed on the basis of low turnout, election officials said. Just under 35 percent of voters backed the government's position to go ahead and over 65 percent said privatization should stop.

Hungarians in favor of keeping a state-run system feared that hospitals would become too expensive if they were sold off to private operators.

Source: Xinhua

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