Croatia Moves to Toughen Referendum Rules

The centre-left majority in Croatia's parliament is working on tightening up the referendum law in order to make such exercises harder to hold.

The principal changes mean that in future, those seeking a referendum will have to present a clearer argument in pushing for one.

Signatures will have to be collected by public bodies, not on the streets, where the government claims people can be manipulated.

The process of collecting signatures is to be extended from two weeks to 30 or even 60 days to make it easier to count the signatures and make the process more transparent.

Another amendment will concern the financing referendum campaigns, so that the government knows who is supporting these initiatives and how much money is being spent.

The proposed changes follow the success of socially conservative groups in forcing a referendum on outlawing gay marriage last year.

An umbrella group, called “In the Name of the Family”, supported by some right-wing parties and the Catholic Church, collected 750,000 signatures in May 2013, demanding a constitutional definition of marriage as a “union of man and woman”.

The referendum was duly held in December 2013, and resulted in 65.87 per cent of voters  on a turnout of 37 per cent opting for an exclusively heterosexual definition of marriage.

Another initiative was then started by a group of war veterans, called the Committee for the Defence of Croatian Vukovar.

This group collected 680,000 signatures in November and December 2013 demanding a referendum on curbing ethnic minority rights.

Currently, ethnic minorities can access certain rights, including the right to have signs displayed in their language and script, if they make up at least a third of the...

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