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Hungarian Referendums Fails

6 December 2004 -- Preliminary official results show that voters failed to approve a referendum on whether to give ethnic Hungarians living outside the country the right to become Hungarian citizens.

The referendum yesterday failed because of low voter turnout.

The issue had raised concerns about the burden of absorbing millions of new immigrants -- and thus millions of new European Union citizens. Hungarian Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany had pledged before the vote to find a solution to the issue, regardless of the result.

A second referendum, on whether health services should remain in state hands, also failed because of the low turnout.

With 98.6 percent of districts reporting, turnout was just under 38 percent. No serious irregularities were recorded.

The question on citizenship would have affected some 2.5 million ethnic Hungarians in surrounding countries such as Romania, Croatia, and Ukraine.

Under the referendum, getting a Hungarian passport would have made it easier for ethnic Hungarians to enter Hungary --- and hence, the EU.