On December 16, 2014, Fidesz–Christian Democratic People’s Party (KDNP) National Assembly representatives adopted a law “regarding the prohibition of Sunday labor in the retail sector.” This law, the official purpose of which was to “help workers maintain their physical and emotional well-being and ensure that they have adequate time to rest,” required retail shops in Hungary to remain closed on Sunday. The law, which went into effect on March 15, 2015, permitted shops of less than 200 square meters in area to open on Sunday under the condition that only the owner and members of the owner’s family worked in the shop on that day (source in Hungarian).
Critics of the law believed that its true objective was to provide family-owned shops with the opportunity to increase revenue at the expense of multinational chain stores (source A and B in Hungarian).
According to surveys that the polling company Ipsos conducted in March and December of 2015, slightly over two-thirds of Hungarians opposed the obligatory closing of shops on Sundays (source A and B in Hungarian).
On April 6, 2016, the Curia approved the following Hungarian Socialist Party-initiated referendum question: “Do You agree that the National Assembly should annul law CII of 2014 regarding the prohibition of Sunday labor in the retail sector?” (source in Hungarian). The Curia’s approval of this question provided opponents of the Sunday shop-closing law with 120 days to collect the 200,000 signatures necessary to hold a national referendum on it.
April 11, 2016, Minister in Charge of the Prime Ministerial Cabinet Office Antal Rogán announced that the government would immediately initiate the repeal of the Sunday shop-closing law on the grounds that Hungarians largely opposed it, asserting that “In appraising the last year [since the law went into effect], one must look not only at the economic indicators, but at the opinion of the people as well” (source in Hungarian).
On April 12, 2016, National Assembly representatives from all party factions with the exception of the KDNP, most of whose representatives abstained, voted to rescind the Sunday shop-closing law (source in Hungarian). However, two Fidesz members of the Orbán government—Minister in Charge of the Prime Ministry János Lázár and Human Resources Minister Zoltán Balog—refused to participate in the vote on the grounds that they opposed annulment of the law. The ministers issued the following joint communiqué explaining their action (source in Hungarian):
We are convinced that everybody has the right for Sunday to be a day off. This is why we do not support the government’s legislative proposal that would restrict free Sundays. Our absence [from the National Assembly vote] is a “NO” vote, which we did not cast out of loyalty toward the government and at the request of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.
Last updated: June 6, 2016.