Europe’s refugee crisis

Low voter turnout invalidates Hungary’s referendum on EU refugee quotas

Early results suggest 95 per cent of those who cast ballots rejected the EU quota

PUBLISHED : Monday, 03 October, 2016, 8:34am
UPDATED : Monday, 03 October, 2016, 10:08pm

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s crusade against the European Union’s migration policy fumbled on a technicality on Sunday when a referendum on the EU refugee resettlement quota for the country did not attract the required 50 per cent voter turnout.

Though only 45 per cent of Hungary’s electorate took part in the referendum, Gergely Gulyas, vice-president of the governing Fidesz party, spoke of a “landslide victory”. Of those who cast their ballots, 95 per cent – 3.2 million voters – rejected the EU quota, Gulyas said before official results were announced.

We can rightly say that this is an overwhelming victory for all who reject the immigration quotas
Gergely Gulyas, vice-president of Fidesz party

“We can rightly say that this is an overwhelming victory for all who reject the immigration quotas, who believe that only the strong nation-states endure, who believe in democracy,” Gulyas said.

Initiated by Orban’s conservative government, the “Yes” or “No” referendum asked voters: “Do you want the European Union to be able, without consulting [the Hungarian] Parliament, to decree the compulsory settlement of non-Hungarian citizens into Hungary?”

The EU is aiming to resettle 160,000 asylum seekers stranded in Italy and Greece across the bloc, with 1,300 assigned to Hungary.

Hungary, Slovakia, Romania and the Czech Republic all voted against the plan. Hungary has not yet accepted any of its quota and is suing the EU in the European Court of Justice over the redistribution plan.

In a months-long campaign with xenophobic and alarmist undertones, the Fidesz party had campaigned for a “no” vote.

Orban had repeatedly stressed the importance of a valid referendum for his “fight against Brussels bureaucracy,” but he backtracked on Sunday morning.

Orban said that whether the vote was rendered valid or not, his right-wing government would act.

“We have always said that only the Hungarian Parliament can decide with whom the Hungarian people want to live,” Orban said. “And that is what we will legally establish.”