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Hungarian president announces referendum date
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11:30, January 24, 2008

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Hungarian President Laszlo Solyom announced on Wednesday that the opposition-initiated referendum seeking to overturn some key government reforms will take place on March 9, local media reported.

On Dec. 17, 2007, the parliament gave the green light to the main opposition Fidesz party's referendum initiative to ask voters on whether to keep in place doctor and hospital visit fees as well higher-education fees.

The governing Socialist Party (MSZP) said it was determined to convince voters about the necessity of the reforms. MSZP deputy chairman and campaign chief Ferenc Juhasz said the party would do all it could to "prevent Fidesz from destroying the government's health-care and education reform programs."

Fidesz has tied the outcome of the popular vote to the fate of the government. "The referendum will give the opportunity for a new political culture in which actions have consequences and it will no longer be possible to tell lies," the party's deputy leader Zoltan Pokorni told reporters on Wednesday.

Analysts say Fidesz has a good chance of getting the necessary majority of voters to support each initiative but the success of the referendum will hang of getting a high enough turnout. The center-right's last referendum initiative failed for lack of a big enough turnout.


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