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First reactions to the quota referendum

October 4th, 2016

Commenting on the quota referendum results, left-leaning media as well as one conservative daily conclude that the referendum is a defeat for PM Orbán. A pro-government commentator, on the other hand, thinks that Fidesz has never mobilized so many voters as in the EU quota referendum.

In the referendum on mandatory EU quotas, 98.9 per cent of valid votes, more than 3,280,000 voters rejected mandatory migrant redistribution of refugees in the EU, but the turnout  fell far short of the 50 per cent threshold to make the referendum valid. The ratio of the valid votes to all eligible voters was 40.4 per cent. In his speech after the referendum, PM Orbán said that the number of people rejecting the EU refugee quota is higher than the number of voters who in the 2003 referendum supported Hungary’s EU membership. He added that the result provides him with a very strong mandate to counter the EU’s efforts to introduce mandatory migrant redistribution. Mr Orbán said that he would also propose an amendment to the Hungarian Constitution. Opposition parties, from the Left to the far-right Jobbik interpreted the invalid referendum as the defeat of the government, and called for PM Orbán’s resignation.

PM Orbán has failedNépszabadság writes in a front page editorial. The leading left-wing daily claims that the results are a huge blow for Mr Orbán, considering the tremendous effort the governing party and the public media put into mobiliizing voters in the campaign. Népszabadság thinks that voters sent a very strong message that they do not share PM Orbán’s vision of the future of Hungary.

Magyar Nemzet interprets the results as the failure of the government’s rhetoric. The conservative daily thinks that the government’s ‘hateful fear-mongering’ backfired, and voters realized that the referendum was a stunt: it had little to do with migration, but rather was intended to entrench the power of Fidesz and divert attention from corruption and bad governance. Magyar Nemzet speculates that the failure of the referendum may create rifts within Fidesz and erode the unity of the governing party. 

PM Orbán has 3.2 million supporters – one million more than he had in 2014, László Néző comments in Magyar Idők. The pro-government columnist cautions the opposition parties to read the referendum results as their own victory. Néző thinks finds it absurd that the claims that those who did not vote should be counted as left-wingers. Despite the fact that the referendum is not valid, the 3.2 million votes give a very strong endorsement to PM Orbán in his disputes with the EU leadership concerning migrant redistribution.

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