Void vote on mi­grants deals blow to Hun­gary’s anti-EU re­volt

The Myanmar Times - - World -

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. –

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