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Hungarians Vote In Contentious Nationality Referendum

5 December 2004 -- Hungarians are voting today in a referendum on granting dual citizenship to millions of ethnic Hungarians living abroad.

Supporters of the proposal say it could heal the wounds of a nation that lost two-thirds of its territory after World War I.

Critics say the emphasis on nationality is backward-looking for a modern European Union state. They also say the citizenship issue could trigger large-scale and costly immigration and unnecessarily complicate relations with neighboring states.

The referendum threatens to sour Hungary's relations with its neighbors, especially Romania, which has a large ethnic Hungarian minority.

Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany and his Socialist Party oppose dual citizenship, but the concept is supported by former Prime Minister Viktor Orban and the opposition Fidesz party.

Hungarians are also casting ballots today in a referendum on whether to prevent the privatization of state-owned hospitals.