Hungarian government launches coronavirus questionnaire

Health

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban delivers his speech during the inauguration of the Centenary Turul Statue in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Trianon Peace Treaty in Satoraljaujhely, Hungary, Saturday, June 6, 2020. The Turul, mostly depicted as a hawk or falcon, is a mythological bird and the ancient symbol of Hungarian national identity and togetherness. Hungary is commemorating the 100th anniversary of a post-World War I peace treaty which led to the loss of about two-thirds of its territory and left some 3.3 million Hungarians outside the country’s new borders. (Zoltan Mathe/MTI via AP)

BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — Hungary’s government on Monday published a new questionnaire with 13 topics centering on the coronavirus pandemic. The “national consultation” will be mailed to citizens in coming weeks.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban has carried out several similar propaganda campaigns since returning to power in 2010. Nominally meant to get voters’ opinions on issues ranging from a new Constitution to immigration, the “national consultations” have been criticized for their politically-charged questions as well as the limited options allowed as answers.

A facsimile of the form published Monday on the government’s internet and Facebook pages includes issues like the protection of retirement homes during the pandemic and a proposal by financier George Soros on how the European Union could raise funds to support members states hard hit by the coronavirus crisis.

Speaking Monday in parliament, Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said that all Hungarian citizens would receive the questionnaire in the mail, asking them to return it by Aug. 15.

“We have a very serious need to create points of agreement based on which we can also win the upcoming phases of protection” against the pandemic, Szijjarto said.

Hungary has registered 4,014 coronavirus cases and 548 deaths.

The first question asks people to indicate which of nine protective measures and restrictions they agree with regarding the pandemic, from the obligatory wearing of masks to free parking and the closure of the country’s border.

Another says: “Do you agree that during the pandemic internet access should be free for families raising school-age children and for teachers?”

The introduction to another question criticizes the EU’s agency dealing with protection against infectious diseases and asks citizens whether they agree that Hungary needs to reduce its defenselessness in the matter by setting up its own agency to warn about pandemics.

The consultation also touches on migration and Soros, two of Orban’s key targets over the past years. One question seeks support for the government’s severe anti-immigration policies, “even at the cost of open conflict with Brussels,” while another hopes for the rejection of Soros’ proposal for the EU to issue “perpetual bonds,” which have no maturity date so issuers make interest payments in perpetuity without repaying the principal amount.

The proposal would drive Hungary into debt for an “unforeseeably long time,” the government said.

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