Hungary is proceeding with its anti-EU, anti-refugee referendum on compulsory quotas

The other day the Fidesz majority in parliament, along with Jobbik MPs, voted to approve a referendum on the “compulsory” quotas the European Union will allegedly impose on Hungary. Hungarians will have the opportunity to vote on this question: “Do you want the European Union, without the consent of Parliament, to order the compulsory settlement of non-Hungarian citizens in Hungary?” Now that’s a loaded question, with obvious prompts to answer “no, no, never!” The parliamentary vote went strictly along party lines, with MPs representing MSZP, LMP, and DK opting to stay away. Only five independent members voted against the bill.

As has been discussed here many times, the overwhelming majority of eligible voters, if they bothered to vote at all, would vote “no” to the referendum question, even if it weren’t so loaded. I assume, therefore, that LMP and MSZP deemed it politically wise to have its members to stay away rather than vote against the measure. The absence of DK’s MPs is harder to explain since it normally is more resolute than MSZP in questions concerning Hungary’s adherence to EU decisions. According to some Facebook gossip DK MPs missed the vote, but Csaba Molnár, one of the deputy chairmen of the party and a member of the European Parliament, claims that their absence was a planned boycott.

After the bill was approved, the European Commission inquired into its exact meaning. The commission assumes, according to its communiqué, that the Hungarian referendum’s question pertains only to future decisions, not to decisions that were already accepted by the EU interior ministers last September. In fact, if we can believe Viktor Orbán and his minister of justice László Trócsányi, it looks as if Hungary will not contest the decision reached regarding the 1,294 refugees from Italy and Greece. However, we mustn’t forget that Hungary has challenged the decision at the European Court of Justice and that Viktor Orbán has declared time and again that he will not allow any refugees to settle in Hungary.

referendum2

DK, Együtt, and PM interpret the referendum as a calculated move by Orbán to withdraw Hungary “at any time” from the European Union. Therefore, said Zsuzsanna Szelényi of Együtt, this referendum is fraught with risks and dangers. DK claims the same. By holding this referendum, Viktor Orbán is asking for a mandate “to lead Hungary out of the Union.” Although I understand that this argument is a reasonable political ploy to keep people away from the voting booths, I can’t believe that Orbán is seriously thinking of taking the country out of the European Union. He must know better than anyone else in what dire financial straits the country would find itself after such a move. Moreover, a large majority of Hungarians, even after years of anti-EU propaganda, feel strongly about Hungary’s continued membership.

Fidesz for its part is trying to convince the electorate that “in the past twenty years there has not been such a weighty decision before the Hungarian people” as this referendum question. I guess this includes such momentous decisions as the adherence to NATO or joining the European Union. The spokesmen for the government and Fidesz keep calling attention to the dangers for Hungary that lurk in Brussels, dangers that can be averted only if the Hungarian government can demonstrate the resolve of the country’s citizens concerning the refugee issue.

By today all the democratic opposition parties decided to urge their voters and sympathizers to boycott the referendum. MSZP, after a long period of indecision, at last opted to join the others. The party’s leadership, however, said that the rationale for their opposition is different from that of DK. MSZP will urge its sympathizers to stay away, but they don’t consider such an act a boycott because they don’t consider a referendum on the question illegitimate per se. “We don’t want compulsory quotas either, but we will have a better program than this joke of a referendum.” Or, as József Tóbiás, party chairman, told Index, “we say ‘no’ to Fidesz’s pseudo-question and we say ‘yes’ to the real ones.” In brief, as usual, MSZP is sitting on the fence.

Even before the parliamentary vote on the issue, Népszabadság summarized the common belief that there is no way that this referendum, due to the Orbán government’s own machinations with the law on referendums, will be valid because getting 50% of the electorate to turn out is well nigh impossible. The paper admits that such a successful referendum–about university tuition fees and co-pays–did take place in 2008, but at that time Fidesz, which was behind the referendum, campaigned for it as a vote against the by then very unpopular Gyurcsány government. They almost promised the people that as a consequence of a successful referendum, the Gyurcsány government would resign. Today there is no such compelling argument to rally the troops. Frightening people with tens of thousands of refugees who cannot be seen anywhere probably won’t have the same impact as promising them an immediate change of government and early elections.

A few days ago when a friend asked whether Hungarian citizens living in Ukraine, Romania, and Serbia will be able to vote on the quota question, I had to admit that I had no idea. Well, today I happened on an article on kitenkinto.hu, an internet site specializing in news from abroad. There I read that János Babity, the Hungarian consul-general in Sutobica/Szabadka in Serbia, told journalists that “ 185,000 Hungarian citizens have the right to decide with whom they want to live in the territory of Hungary.” Voting will be conducted in the same manner as at the 2014 national election. So, I’m afraid, the Hungarian government will have an immense pool of voters to mobilize outside the country. Moreover, election fraud here is practically guaranteed. Let’s not forget that over 98% of the Romanian-Hungarian vote went for Fidesz in 2014. Voting by absentee ballot is largely unsupervised.

Today Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, said on the German WDR’s “Europa Forum” that “the European Union is not a smorgasbord from which everybody can pick and choose.” Member states “must eat what is on the table.” At the same time, the magnitude of the EU’s threat of what is in essence a fine of 250,000 euros for every refugee Hungary refuses to accept from its allotted quota started to sink in. Last Friday Orbán expressed his total disgust at the EU’s shameful treatment of the poorer countries. A couple of days ago Bence Uzson, one of the government spokesmen, talked about the price of resistance that Hungary would have to pay. He indicated that Hungary is trying to convince the other Visegrad 4 countries to join the battle against Brussels. Moreover, there is talk that Hungary, even without support from its neighbors, might be ready to veto the measure.

On a brighter note, Vesna Györkös Žnidar, the Slovenian minister of the interior, announced yesterday without much fanfare the arrival of the first 30 refugees from Greece. Slovenia will voluntarily take 587 refugees and establish “integration homes” for them. The refugees will take part in “integration programs for a whole year, during which they will have all the assistance necessary from the Slovenian government.” Slovenia has a population of 2.06 million. I guess the Slovenes are not worried about being overwhelmed by people of an alien culture. If Hungary were that generous, the country would give shelter to 3,000 refugees. But instead, it wants to take in not a single refugee. A real embarrassment.

May 12, 2016
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Member

” I can’t believe that Orbán is seriously thinking of taking the country out of the European Union. He must know better than anyone else in what dire financial straits the country would find itself after such a move.”
I disagree. I believe Orban in fact does try to lead Hungary out of the EU. His only way to dismantle any remains of democracy, and forever protect all his and his friends’ financial gain is by getting out of the EU. Under the EU laws at some point there would be accountability because legally it could be done. By taking Hungary out of the EU, it will be free for all. The current Fidesz government and their families are already wealthy, and they will stay wealthy even if the country collapses.

Guest

Some1
I think you are right, Some1, and the only checks and balances which still exist here, are only because Hungary is a member of the EU.

It was clear from the start that Orbán’s belligerent attitude to the EU is because he can’t and won’t abide to its democratic principles, which are in place precisely to curb the excesses of selfish and greedy tyrants, such as our tin-pot dictator.

If Hungary exits the EU, I think there would be civil war here. Those who oppose the mafia regime will have no one to protect them from incarceration and worse, and Hungary will be an even more sinister tyranny than it was under communism.

Guest

Re: ‘Orban’s belligerent attitude’

I don’t know. Is it my flighty imagination or why do I perhaps see two saber-rattling swords, one etched with a crown the other with a hammer and sickle, constantly being waved lately at a particular direction. Just has to be method somewhere in these executions.

petofi
Guest

It’s worse than that: he’s probably under orders from the commissar to remove the country from the EU. If the country fails thereafter, so much the better…

Guest
London Calling! Christ! 587 in a population of 2million and only 20,000 sq metres? They’ve overrun that country already. Christian imbalance. I won’t have to convince my Visegrad mates – they’ll realise and build their own pregnable fences. Or do I mean impregnable? I won’t have to warn them of the Muslim hordes. They can see it for themselves. More Muslims than Christians in a couple of years. Christ! My referendum just might make 50% – that’s a bummer I was calculating it to fail. Just wanted to keep it in the headlines. I just wanted to feel important. If Britain gets all this publicity over their bloody referendum for their bloody Brexit why can’t we have some of the attention? Hungrexit. Hmmmmm doesn’t quite have the same ring to it does it? Never mind. Not sure where we can divvy up €324,000,000 – that’s 102395793357.00 forints. Christ! That’s almost as much as my mate Tarsoly trousered – but at least Szijjártó played a blinder! And the EU funds will dry up by 2020 anyway so that’ll be the end of the gravy train. Talking of trains – it might mean more customers for my Choo Choo. Christ! I need… Read more »
Istvan
Guest
Eva’s quote from Jean-Claude Juncker reflects his bureaucratic nature that has set the table for many UK citizens supporting exiting the EU. The arrogance of this man who was the leader of a nation, Luxembourg, with an armed forces composed of 450 professional soldiers and a budget of 0.9% of GDP that has an economy based on being a tax haven. Banking is the largest sector in the Luxembourg economy. The country has specialized in the cross-border fund administration business. As Luxembourg’s domestic market is relatively small, the country’s financial centre is predominantly international and it thrives on corruption of the type seen in the Panama papers. According to Transparency International even with its modification of tax haven laws the country ranks high on the so called Corruption Perceptions Index. Possibly the only way to keep the EU together is to allow it to be a smorgasbord of options from which everybody can pick and choose and differing levels of membership. Vote Leave or the Out group in the UK is using Junker as a poster boy for their campaign. The quote Eva cited cited is also in fact not complete, it actually was as follows: “The idea that, the… Read more »
Guest
Yes, I too think Juncker is a disaster for the EU – as I said at the time – really believing that Martin Schultz would have been the best person. Juncker has been a real fool in making a joke of “our little dictator” – slap slap. But Juncker is right. Signing up means putting up. You sign up to responsibilities that everyone else agrees to. This is the problem that Orban has – he doesn’t understand that you agree to a contract. The whole system breaks down if participants think they can mix and match the rules. The taking of a quota of refugees has been accepted by most EU participants. It really does stick in the craw that Orban asks the elecorate if they should take the refugees without the ‘consent’ of Parliament. Well Parliament has already granted its permission – they agreed to accession in 2004. Remember you signed up of your own volition? And you take – and embezzle – the funds. Enormous grants. My taxes inter alia. Many laws and rules have already bypassed this travesty of a ‘parliament’. But Orban baulks at refugees – only because it suits his agenda. It is an incontrovertible… Read more »
Observer
Guest

OT Lies, damn lies, Fidesz

“GDP on Growth by 0.9 Percent – Growth is expected to pick up substantially
– See more at: http://magyarhirlap.hu/cikk/55290/GDP_on_Growth_by_09_Percent#sthash.djLEnuE0.dpuf

Before the ink dries ….

The Hungarian economy’s growth in Q1 was the worst in the Europe : – 0.8% minus that is. http://hu.tradingeconomics.com/hungary/gdp-growth

rajh
Guest

This is an election system analysis done by lawyers who worked in the Bajnai/Gyucsany administrations.

Basically, the left-wing – assuming and united left-wing with an ironclad discipline – must prevail over Fidesz by 5-6% to be able to gain a majority in the Parliament. The simulation doesn’t take into account the Romanian, Serbian, Ukrainain ethnic Hungarian voters – whose dress rehearsal will be the 206 referendum on migrants in which ethnic Hungarians can and will vote.

If the unified left-wing prevails over Fidesz by onle 2-3%s, it may be the biggest block but it cannot have a majority.

The post does not mention the fact that with simple majority no governing is possible in the Orban regime, in general like good conformist liberals the authors accepted the terms of the game: exactly as Orban planned leftists would.

http://igyirnankmi.atlatszo.hu/2016/05/12/a-valasztasi-rendszer-es-a-kormanyzokepesseg/

webber
Guest

Easy to resolve: Govt. of the left, strategic voting with non-governing parties on all sorts of issues.
IF the opposition is able to form a government after 2018 (big if) it will have no problem getting other parties (LMP, yes even Jobbik) to help dismantle some of the worst aspects of the Orban regime.
Hell, if the left forms a government, Fidesz itself will vote for some of the changes (even to the constitution), because the system as it now stands favors those in power, and – if the left is in power – will then be detrimental to Fidesz.

Engelbert
Guest
That’s the point. Those conditions which seemingly favor only “those in power” don’t exist, those conditions actually only favor Fidesz, This is because power is not only being exercised via laws, in formal ways but informally too (actually mostly). Why would Fidesz vote for a new constitutional court or a new prosecution or a new Central Bank or a new State Audit Office? By the way, do you have any idea about the depth of the personnel changes of the prosecution in the last 10-15 years (mind you Polt, Varga Zs. etc. used to call the shots even when Polt wasn’t formally the chief). You change the 10 people at the top and nothing will change. Fidesz and Jobbik together will always hold 1/3 which is enough to block any changes to the Orban system especially changes proposed by “Soros-financed liberal communists.” Moreover, the election system itself can be changed by Fidesz too so that if Fidesz was sensing a danger of an emergence of a potential majority from the opposition it could amend the elections laws so that it would be difficult to maintain a majority (especially by the leftist parties which are always infighting) for example prosposing a… Read more »
webber
Guest

You forget that Fidesz can’t just change things anymore as it wants. It doesn’t have the 2/3 majority.
Moreover, as far as I can see Jobbik already has said “no” to Fidesz ideas about how to change the constitution again. And Jobbik has already said it thinks some things need to be changed.

The left doesn’t cooperate? Well, show me a party on the left – heck show me an individual on the left who doesn’t want to change everything Fidesz has done.

So, actually, it’s a lot easier than you imagine. There is almost universal consensus among opposition parties, left and right, that the whole system is rotten.

Engelbert
Guest
Nope, 2/3s can be brought together if the purpose was to prevent a “liberal” resurrection, believe me. No Jobbiknik would allow the “communists” (ie. Jews and “liberalbolsheviks”) to stage a come back, especially if in a new election system twice as many Jobbiknik would have spots in the Parliament. Like it was mentioned, it is the common individual interests of each ofJobbik, LMP and the LIberálisk( Fodor) and MSZP to vote with Fidesz – but Fidesz actually needs only 2 votes to rearange the election system into a wholly proportionate system if and when Orban was afraid that his regime (not just the government) could be undone. At that point his interest would change – into preserving “the Regime”‘s fundamental pillars, so that those became the default, the baseline, the normal. In a proportionate system all parties which are not the no. 1 party would gain very much compared to the present system. What’s more, even if the Left-wing had been until that point united and looked as though it could actually get 2/3s in the Parliament (say with 45% of the votes cast, if the leftist-block would be the biggest block, coming from 6 different parties) and thus be… Read more »
Guest

Engelbert, how often are you going to tell us that O can’t be unseated?
Do you remember what happened to Ceaucescu and his wife?

Engelbert
Guest

Yes, this is probably the only way. But it’s contrary to the rule of law, so to speak. Moreover, you cannot advocate that, let alone plan it because TEK will take you away and you will end up like the prosecutor leading the Questor-case (I’m surprised that nobody i the media really cared about that tidbit).

Legally, Orban’s system is not possible to dismantle. That’s the first thing one has to realize, unless people face that, nothing will (can) change.

Guest

” . . it’s contrary to the rule of law, so to speak. Moreover, you cannot advocate that, let alone plan it because TEK will take you away and you will end up like the prosecutor leading the Questor-case . . ”

The Fidesz regime is a staunch protector of the rule of law. They don’t tell lies, steal or kill unless it is absolutely convenient.

webber
Guest

So far, Jobbik has not been Fidesz’s tool (surprises me, too). I think it’s entirely possible that the system could be dismantled legally after 2018. Getting rid of the State Prosecutor could be the most difficult step – BUT there is the nice example of Romania to follow.

So, like Romania, you just create a new office to investigate and prosecute corruption, with powers to investigate and prosecute people sitting in office. Then you go after Polt, and his wife, and everyone else.

Easy peasey, as I say. Jobbik would enjoy voting for that.

Guest

Exactly!
Make new laws “around the old laws” without changing them.

And if that doesn’t help …

But I fear that Hungarians are just too full of fear/lazy/dumb/ignorant (you name it …) for that – at least that’s what my wife says and she’s been living here for more than 70 years and when reading the news on her smartphone she sometimes breaks out into hysterical laughter …

That’s what we call gallows humour!

webber
Guest

P.S. That article does NOT say what you claim. It’s just a model of possibilities – many of which you didn’t even touch on.

petofi
Guest

Ain’t that picture of the ballot box a cutie? Typical Hungariana…
What’s to stop a person from lifting the back end up…?

petofi
Guest

Anyone following my comments would know that I predicted a Hungexit more than 4 years ago–

Geppo
Guest

As most italians i’d welcome a referendum on the virtual abolition of italian southern f rontiers and the costs of hundred thousants immigrant with no possibility of findind a job here.

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