If Fidesz won, why is the so-called “child protection” referendum invalid?

April 04. 2022. – 01:17 PM


If Fidesz won, why is the so-called “child protection” referendum invalid?
Illustration: Fillér Máté / Telex


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The so-called child protection referendum held on Sunday, at the same time as the parliamentary elections has been declared invalid. From the appoximately 3.5 million valid answers which were submitted, 3.2 million people voted “no”. But if so many people gave the answer the government has been pushing, and if the Fidesz-KDNP coalition won yet another two-thirds majority, then how is it possible that they were not able to get enough valid votes that had four “no” answers to the questions asked. The answer is simpler than one might think.

There were four questions asked at the referendum which allowed Fidesz to keep the anti-gay rhetoric on the table throughout the campaign. These were the following:

  • Do you support holding lectures on the topic of sexual orientation to underage children in public education institutions without parental consent?
  • Do you support the promotion of sex reassignment treatments for underage children?
  • Do you support the unrestricted exposure of underage children to sexually explicit media content that may affect their development?
  • Do you support exposing underage children to media content showing gender change?

The governing parties used taxpayers’ money to finance ads “for social purposes” on TV to show a girl telling her mother that instead of writing a math test, someone came into her class and told her that she could be a boy if she wanted to, and used a Russian stock photo to encourage voters on billboards to vote “no” in the referendum on April 3rd if they want to protect children.

Fidesz’ election campaign seems to have been successful in spite of a war having broken out in a neighbouring country: they won their fourth two-thirds victory, and Viktor Orbán will form a government for the fifth time. In light of this, it may seem surprising at first that although there were more “no” votes among the valid answers at the referendum, it is still an unsuccessful referendum, as its result will not be valid in a legal sense.

Winning a referendum is much harder than winning an election

For a referendum to be valid, 50% of those eligible to vote must cast a valid vote. This time, according to the National Election Office, 8 215 304 people were eligible to vote,

which means that the answer given to each of the questions would have been valid if at least 4 107 652 valid votes had been cast.

Instead, with 98 percent of the votes having been counted, the numbers are as follows:

  • there were 3 521 425 valid and 1 590 772 invalid votes submitted for the first question
  • there were 3 492 688 valid and 1 619 509 invalid votes submitted for the second question
  • there were 3 484 686 valid and 1 627 511 invalid votes submitted for the third question
  • there were 3 482 505 valid and 1 629 692 invalid votes submitted for the fourth question

If we compare these figures with the turnout at the general election, we can see that on the one hand, the number of those who picked up their referendum ballot papers on Sunday is roughly 60 thousand less than those who voted in the general election. We can also see that while 2 735 381 voted for the governing parties, they were able to gather at least 700 000 more “nos” for each of the referendum questions.

In other words: more people voted “no” in each of the referendum questions than chose Fidesz-KDNP on Sunday.

It follows that the government's referendum was probably not invalid because they could not mobilize their own camp, but because this camp alone is not enough for a valid referendum result.

How much more difficult it is to achieve a valid referendum result than a two-thirds majority in parliament under the current system is illustrated by the fact that of the seven previous national referendums since 1989, only two have seen more than 50% of eligible voters turn out to vote.


It was last summer, shortly after the pedophile law-turned into an anti-gay law came into force that Viktor Orbán announced that the government would call a referendum on the issue. The reason he gave for this at the time was that “In recent weeks, Brussels has clearly attacked Hungary because of its child protection law.”

In recent weeks, a number of civil rights movements have campaigned to encourage citizens to vote in the referendum, but to submit an invalid answer: thus making it clear that they consider the 4 questions in the so-called child protection referendum exclusionary pseudo-questions. The activists communicated that the first step to repealing the so-called pedophile law which was turned into an anti-LGBTQ law could be to invalidate this referendum.

In anticipation of the referendum, the Ministry of Human Resources has not yet drafted a key decree detailing the rules without which NGOs have now been banned from providing sex education in schools for eight months.

This was the first time in Hungary that parliamentary elections and a referendum were held at the same time. The legal possibility for this was created by Parliament last November when it voted in favour of János Volner's (Fidesz MP) proposal.

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