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Political Campaign Heats Up In Hungary As President Sets Date For Migrant Quota Referendum

Tamás Székely 2016.07.06.

As President János Áder has set the date for the government-initiated referendum on the EU’s mandatory migrant quota scheme for October 2, Hungarian political parties instantly began campaigning to persuade Hungarians to vote yes, no, or even to stay away from the vote.

The prime minister’s cabinet chief Antal Rogán (ruling Fidesz party) encouraged voters to participate in the referendum and reject “Brussels’ forced settlement” scheme. Rogán insisted it was “up to Hungarians to decide who they want to live together with”. He said the government would continue placing “informative” advertisements in the papers, but after August 20 they will work on presenting the government’s position more clearly and broadly.

The opposition Socialist Party (MSZP) urged citizens to abstain from voting on the EU’s mandatory migrant quota scheme, arguing that the referendum was designed to pave the way for Hungary’s exit from the EU. Socialist Party deputy leader Zoltán Gőgös said Hungary’ the quota referendum was actually a vote on Hungary’s EU membership.

Left-wing opposition Democratic Coalition (DK) said in reaction to the announcement that the government “has started preparations for Hungary to leave the European Union”. DK deputy leader Csaba Molnár said that a valid referendum would be “a prelude” to leaving the community, and urged supporters to boycott the vote. “Those who stay away will by default vote for Hungary’s remaining a member,” he argued.

The Együtt (Together) party said the quota referendum went against Hungary’s interests. In a statement, the party accused the prime minister of using the referendum campaign as means to increase his power and wealth. The party said it would start a campaign calling for the boycott of the referendum and a signature drive in support of Hungary’s EU membership.

With its “senseless and invalid” referendum question and “hate mongering”, the Dialogue for Hungary (PM) party’s spokesman said, the ruling Fidesz party is seeking to divert attention from real problems such as poverty, low wages, corruption and the ailing health-care and education sectors. Bence Tordai called on voters to boycott the referendum.

The Liberal Party, however, said it promotes participation in the national vote. Party leader Gábor Fodor said that the referendum question was “sham and manipulative” because the EU would not force settlement of migrants in Hungary; it only expects Hungary to complete asylum procedures for 1,294 migrants. People should turn up and vote in favour of European values and thwart the government’s initiative, he insisted.

Radical nationalist Jobbik also encourages residents to participate but firmly urges them to vote against the quota. Jobbik spokesman Ádám Mirkóczki said that his party was against “any senseless diktat from Brussels”.

Meanwhile at a press conference in Berlin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel was asked whether she was concerned that the Hungarian referendum would exacerbate divisions within the EU. Merkel said the Hungarian Prime Minister’s opinion on migrants “is already known”, and she did not expect “any change from the referendum to the current situation”.

via hungarymatters.hu and MTI

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