Void vote on migrants deals blow to Hungary’s anti-EU revolt
HUNGARY’S populist Prime Minister Viktor Orban suffered a blow in his revolt against the European Union after low voter turnout voided his referendum aimed at rejecting a contested migrant quota plan.
Although a whopping 99.8 percent of voters backed his bid to reject the proposal, overall turnout fell well short of a 50pc threshold.
Only 3.3 million of the 8-millionstrong electorate cast a valid vote, and the National Election Committee declared the referendum void.
Opposition figures swiftly called on Mr Orban to step down over the vote, after rights groups had accused him of whipping up anti-migrant fears despite there being only a few hundred asylum seekers in Hungary.
But the firebrand leader downplayed the significance of the low turnout and vowed there would be “legal consequences” regardless.
“Brussels or Budapest, that was the question, and the people said Budapest,” he defiantly told supporters.
“I will propose to change the constitution [which] shall reflect the will of the people. We will make Brussels understand that it cannot ignore the will of Hungarian voters.”
The referendum asked voters, “Do you want the EU to be able to mandate the obligatory resettlement of nonHungarian citizens into Hungary even without the approval of the National Assembly?”
The firebrand leader has emerged as the standard-bearer of those opposed to German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s “open-door” policy, in the wake of the bloc’s worst migration crisis since World War II.
The EU migrant quota proposal, spearheaded by Ms Merkel and approved by most governments in the bloc last year after antagonistic debates seeks to ease pressure on frontline countries Italy and Greece, the first port of arrival for most migrants.
More than 400,000 refugees trekked through Hungary toward northern Europe in 2015 before Hungary sealed off its southern borders with razor wire in the autumn and brought in tough anti-migrant laws, reducing the flow to a trickle.
Other countries on the so-called Balkan migrant trail followed suit, leaving some 60,000 migrants stranded in Greece. Many of those migrants live in grim conditions in camps dotted around the Aegean islands and the mainland, desperate to continue their onward journey.
The European Union said last week it hoped to relocate half of them by the end of 2017.
Austria’s Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz said the EU should stop clinging to its troubled plan. –