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Quota Referendum: Opposition Parties Accuse Government Of Discriminating Hungarians Working Abroad

By Robert Velkey // 2016.08.05.

The date is set: on October 2nd, 2016, Hungary will hold a referendum on the EU’s mandatory migrant resettlement quota system. In October, Hungarians will have the chance to vote on the following question: “Do you want to allow the European Union to mandate the resettlement of non-Hungarian citizens to Hungary without the approval of the National Assembly?” The question, for legal reasons, concerns future EU plans for the compulsory resettlement of migrants among member states. Opposition parties want all Hungarian citizens – ethnic Hungarians living permanently in neighbouring countries and those working or studying abroad, mostly in Western Europe – to be able to vote by mail about the referendum in October. 


The green opposition LMP party, which has 5 MPs in the 199-seat National Assembly, and the minor Hungarian Liberal Party, which is represented by a single deputy, spoke out against a clause in Hungary’s election law that says Hungarians who have a permanent address in the country but are abroad on the day of an election or referendum can only vote at a Hungarian embassy or consular office near them but allows ethnic Hungarians living beyond the border to vote by mail. LMP called on the government to allow all Hungarians living abroad, including those working in western Europe, to vote by mail in the October 2 migrant quota referendum. Party spokesman Péter Ungár said that the government “differentiates between Hungarians and Hungarians” by not allowing citizens who have a registered address in Hungary but work abroad to vote by mail. He said voting regulations for Hungarians in western Europe were “unacceptable” even for the general election in 2014 as “many of them had to travel hundreds of kilometres” to be able to exercise their voting rights at the nearest embassy or consular office. On the topic of the referendum itself, Mr. Ungár said the vote would not resolve the migration crisis but added that decisions on immigration should be kept as a national competency. Hungarians have a right to decide who they want to live together with in their country, he insisted. He said he would participate in the referendum and vote “no”. In the referendum Hungarians will be asked: “Do you want to allow the European Union to mandate the resettlement of non-Hungarian citizens to Hungary without the approval of parliament?”


LMP spokesman Péter Ungár has accused the government of “diferentiating between Hungarians and Hungarians”

The Liberals branded the election rules pertaining to postal voting as “severe discrimination”. Anett Bősz, the party’s spokeswoman, proposed that Hungary should follow Estonia’s example and introduce electronic voting to make it easier for the roughly 600 000 citizens who were born in the country but have since moved abroad to participate in elections. She proposed that Hungarians living abroad could cast their votes online with the help of an electronic ID card that they could obtain through the immigration office. Ms. Bősz noted that e-voting also has the backing of the EU.