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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Siesta: A Hot Summer's Answer for Cold Winter

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The federal election commission of Hungary gave permission to conduct a national referendum on strengthening the siesta -- a break of 3 to 4 hours starting at lunchtime. The group initiating the referendum now has to collect the required 200,000 signatures, after which the siesta question will be decided by a national vote.

Perhaps Hungary's citizens, having realized that they would not easily attain the same incomes as their neighbors, have decided not to worry about it anymore. Or maybe the opposite is true: Hungarians feel that life is working out fine and that they can follow the example of the civilized countries in hot climates by giving themselves the opportunity for a little more rest. Average salaries in Hungary, however, at 550 euros ($750) per month, are significantly lower than Spain's average of 1,500 euros ($2,050) per month. This may be why the initiative's supporters wanted to put before voters the question of the free provision of wine and beer during the siestas as well, but the election commission did not approve its inclusion in the referendum. Or else, the underlying reason behind the referendum might even have to do with global warming: Even the Swedes might soon be hankering for a little shut-eye after lunch.

The idea of the siesta might find supporters in Russia, a country where average salaries have risen over the past five years, from 110 euros ($150) per month to 400 euros ($550) at present, and where the political system has achieved relative stability. Russia's last national referendum was held in 1993 as a vote of confidence for the president and the parliament.

In Russia, with its freezing winters in the north and warm summers in the south, the idea of an extended midday break -- or shorter workdays during extremely hot or cold periods -- might become popular. According to the Public Opinion Foundation, almost 37 percent of respondents reported experiencing inconvenience getting to work during the cold winter of 2006 due to problems with transportation, and 20 percent of those questioned by the National Center for the Study of Public Opinion said that last winter they simply did not go to work.

Interest by Russia's voters in an increased lunch break, or in instituting days off during extremely cold or hot days, should not elicit the censure of the Central Elections Commission. After all, voters are not demanding that pensions and the minimum wage be raised to meet subsistence levels, or a return to the system of electing regional governors. The Central Elections Commission and the Supreme Court have denied permission to put those questions before the people in a national referendum.

This comment appeared as an editorial in Vedomosti.