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Constitutional amendment stuck

November 10th, 2016

Commentators are divided over whether or not the failure of a constitutional amendment proposed by the government, which would have barred the settlement of groups of non-EU citizens outside the normal immigration procedures, was a defeat for the Prime Minister.

The planned 7th amendment to the Fundamental law would have enshrined the government’s will not to accept compulsory immigrant relocation quotas in the  Constitution. Fidesz and KDNP MPs all voted in favour, but their 131 votes were just two votes short of the required two third majority. Jobbik said it would approve the amendment if the government abolished the system of residency rights on offer to foreigners who buy a special government bond costing €300,000. Government officials have said they do plan to abolish the bond, but have not set a date. The Economy Minister, Mihaly Varga, says they are no longer necessary, thanks to the improvement in Hungary’s financial status. It is unclear at the moment if the amendment will be tabled again, if the special bond is abolished.

In Népszava, Róbert Friss interprets the result of the vote as a huge failure for Viktor Orbán. He believes the whole campaign the Prime Minister has conducted over the issue of mass immigration from Asia and Africa has now crumbled. With the next elections approaching, Friss writes, Mr Orbán must now find out something new to replace that theme, ‘otherwise he is forsaken’.

In Magyar Nemzet, Albert Gazda agrees, at least to the extent that in his dealings with the European Union, Mr Orbán will have nothing to impress his partners after the result of the vote in Parliament. On the other hand,  the outcome will help him in his drive to roll back Jobbik which has refused to support him in his ‘anti-quota struggle’.  The events will also prompt a renewed campaign against the other opposition parties, who will be accused of ‘refusing to protect the country against the immigration wave’, Gazda predicts.

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