Lowvoter turnout invalidates ballot on refugee quotas
Lowvoter turnout invalidated Hungary’s referendum on European Union refugee quotas, even though citizens voted overwhelmingly in support of the government’s opposition to any future, mandatory EU plans to relocate asylum seekers.
The government claimed a “sweeping victory,” but analysts said that the result was an “embarrassing but not totally catastrophic defeat” for PrimeMinister Viktor Orban.
“We can be proud that we are the first and so far only member state of the European Union” to hold such a referendum, Orban told supporters after the results were known. “Hungarians were able to give their direct opinions on the issue of immigration.”
Orban, who did not mention at all that the referendum was officially invalid, said he would present a proposal to amend the Constitution reflecting people’s intentions. Orban, a right-wing populist, has challenged the EU’s refugee policy, arguing that allowing the influx of larger numbers of Muslim migrants into Europe threatens Hungary and Europe’s Christian identity and culture.
“The (European) Union’s proposal is to let the migrants in and distributetheminmandatory fashion among the member states and for Brussels to decide about this distribution,” Orban said. “Hungarians today considered this proposal and they rejected it. Hungarians decided that only usHungarians can decide whom we want to live with.”
“The question was ‘Brussels or Budapest’ and we decided this issue is exclusively the competence of Budapest,” the prime minister said.
With 99.98 percent of the votes counted, more than 3.25 million voters — or 98.3 of those who cast valid ballots — backed the government. But turnout stood at 43.9 percent, the National Election Office said. At least 50 percent plus one of Hungary’s 8.27 million voters needed to cast valid ballots for the referendum to be valid.
of those who cast valid ballots backed the government’s opposition to mandatory quotas for asylym seekers. in voter turnout was well below the threshold for the referendum to be valid.
Nearly 4 percent of the votes were spoiled — twice as many as in any of the other four referendums held since 1997 — driving down the number of valid votes to 40.1 percent.
The referendum asked: “Do you want the European Union to be able to prescribe the mandatory settlement of nonHungarian citizens in Hungary even without the consent of Parliament?”
Orban’s Fidesz party claimed victory immediately after voting stations closed, with party vice chairman Gergely Gulyas saying it was a “sweeping victory for all those who reject the EU’s mandatory, unlimited quotas.”
At the same time, analysts said the relentless government campaign against the EU’s refugee relocation schemes had oversaturated citizens.
“Orban was able to dominate public discourse with an issue in which the majority was on his side,” said Tamas Boros, an analyst at Policy Solutions, a political research and consultancy firm. “But it seems he went too far and overestimated how much people’s opinions are transformed into votes.”
A refugee baby smiles in a makeshift tent on the HungarySerbia border, in a camp outside a transit zone set up by Hungarian authorities, on Sept 2.