Main opposition party backs autonomy in Hungary

Hungary's main center-right opposition party on Monday said it supports autonomy for ethnic Hungarians in neighboring countries and granting them Hungarian citizenship, party officials said. In 2004, Fidesz-Hungarian Civic Union backed a referendum to give dual citizenship to some 2.4 million ethnic Hungarians in neighboring countries like Romania, but it failed due to low voter turnout.

Presenting the party's foreign policy program, former Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi said the issues were linked to universal human rights. Polls show Fidesz, which governed in 1998-2002, in a virtual tie with the governing Socialist Party ahead of the first round of parliamentary elections on April 9. Runoffs will be held April 23.

The Socialists campaigned against dual citizenship in 2004, fearful a possible influx of ethnic Hungarians would overburden the state budget. Martonyi denied Fidesz intended to grant citizenship to ethnic Hungarians as a way of expanding its voter base.

Speaking at a Fidesz congress on March 19, Istvan Mikola, the party's candidate for deputy prime minister, said Fidesz could "entrench itself in power for 20 years" if ethnic Hungarians were allowed to vote in Hungarian elections. Martonyi said Monday that Fidesz did want to change the current law, which says that only Hungarian citizens with a permanent residence in the country are allowed to vote, reports the AP.

N.U.

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