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Last arguments before the referendum 

October 3rd, 2016

On the eve of the referendum on compulsory European migrant quotas, columnists made a last effort to convince the public about the best course to follow.

In Hetek, former Liberal MP Peter Hack explained why he and his evangelical ‘congregation of faith’ church, have decided to vote ’no’. At the same time last year, he recalled, Prime Minister Orbán was the only European leader to urge countries to protect Europe’s outer borders, while today virtually all leading politicians on the continent say so. Meanwhile, Austria is preparing to build a fence along the border with Hungary, while Great Britainis building a wall around the French side of the Chunnel. Hack suggests that European elites consider themselves an enlightened group who know better what European nations need than the people living there. He calls that attitude ‘Bolshevik behaviour’, because it means that today’s European elites treat the people with deep contempt and accuse of populism those who invoke the opinion of the population. Hack therefore thinks it fit to vote ‘no’ and thereby to ‘express support for a new concept of European integration.’

On Mandiner, Brigi Kiss envies those who feel no remorse or bad conscience at the sight of the miserable people fleeing from atrocious living conditions or outright war. She was in two minds, she writes, as she deems it unacceptable to allow hundreds of thousands of people to cross one border after another without being vetted by European authorities. Therefore she believes that a thorough debate would have been important on the crucial issue of mass immigration into Europe. Since there has not been one, she concludes, she does not feel like voting either yes or no and has decided to cast an invalid vote

In an unusual editorial comment, 168 óra, which usually carries signed Op-ed pieces, argued against casting invalid votes, as too complicated a method to be followed by a large number of people. The left-wing weekly warned that the only stake in connection with the referendum was whether turnout would reach the required quorum of 50%, and therefore voting ‘yes’ would suit the government’s game. Abstention is the obvious choice for those who reject the government’s policies, the editors wrote. Casting an invalid vote is not that simple because the rules are tailored to exclude the least possible people from the elections and therefore the only secure way of doing it is ticking both the ‘yes’ tabs and the ‘no’ tabs. For those who are outraged because ‘this country has been made utterly unlivable in for the past months’, 168 óra suggested, the best solution was to stay at home.

In a similar vein, Népszabadság also condemned the idea of the referendum but acknowledged that it presents democrats with a serious dilemma, since plebiscites are ‘the most sacred institution’ of democracy. ‘Most of us’, the leading left-wing daily continued, want to express our rejection of this ‘mockery of democracy’ by abstaining from the referendum, but others feel they should express their support for the principle of popular sovereignty by participating while casting an invalid vote. Népszabadság considered both solutions legitimate and expressing ‘deep contempt’ towards what it calls a ‘filthy and irresponsible government game’.

On Index, Szabolcs Dull reassures left-wing voters that fears of large-scale vote rigging are unfounded. Those concerns have arisen because it turned out that left-wing parties would not send observers to about one third of the polling stations. Dull examines five potential ways of irregularities, all of which would entail prison terms up to 3 years if discovered and none of which can be performed without being observed by several people. All in all, he writes tens of thousands of people would have to conspire in order to meaningfully alter the results of the vote. He therefore recommends the public not to nurture excessive concerns on this.

In his regular Magyar Nemzet column, Albert Gazda is convinced that whatever the result, the government side will declare victory, for the number of no votes will surely be much higher than the ballots cast for FIDESZ at the last election. Jobbik, he continues will reap nothing from the votes it encouraged during the campaign, because those votes will be lost in the sea of no votes. Left-wing parties which called for a boycott would also be among the losers, he suggested, because they cannot consider all those who fail to turn out as their followers. The tiny Liberal party on the other hand had something to gain, because it could rightly claim possession over the limited amount of ‘yes’ votes cast. The real winner however would be the Two-Tailed Dog Party which has ‘appeared to be the only viable opposition force lately’, with its witty poster campaign arguing for an invalid vote. This practically non-existent party, Gazda concludes, can rightly claim most invalid votes to be its own.

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