Hungary To Keep EU Poll Booths Open Longer Because of Sabbath


BUDAPEST, HUNGARY

March 6, 2003

(AP) - Parliament decided late Monday to keep voting stations open two hours longer than originally planned so Jewish citizens honoring the Sabbath could vote at an April referendum on Hungary's European Union membership.

Polling stations will now open at 5 a.m. and close at 9 p.m. on Saturday, April 12.

An earlier suggestion by the federation, which would have extended voting time by only one hour, was amended after an orthodox Jewish group said it still did not give enough time for observant Jews to vote.

Rabbi Baruch Oberlander of the Lubavitch Community, which asked for the extension, said the decision was a victory for democracy. "There may not be hundreds of thousands of religious Jews in Hungary who would have been deprived of their voting rights if this hadn't changed," Oberlander said. "But democracy is about taking into account the wishes of individuals, too, and I am very happy with this decision."

There are an estimated 80,000-100,000 Jews in Hungary, only a small fraction of whom actively practice their religion.

Hungary is set to join the EU in May 2004.

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