A Pyrrhic Victory? – Hungarian Press Reactions To Sunday’s Migrant Quota Referendum
Tamás Székely 2016.10.05.
Commenting on the quota referendum results, opposition media conclude that the referendum is a defeat for Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, while pro-government commentators point out that ruling Fidesz party has never mobilized so many voters as in the EU quota referendum. Hungarian press round-up by budapost.eu:
PM Orbán hasfailed, left-wing Népszabadságwrites 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.
The government may mislead Hungarians and claim victory, but it cannot fool the outside world, Szabolcs Panyi contends on liberal news portal Index.hu. Panyi interprets the referendum results as proof that the majority of Hungarians do not support PM Orbán. As a result, Mr Orbán will no longer be considered a major threat to the EU, Panyi suggests. The Prime Minister’s international prestige will weaken further if right-wing populist parties and leaders in Europe and the US are defeated, he suggests.
Magyar Nemzet also interprets the results as the failure of the government’s rhetoric. The conservative but opposition 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 right-wing 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.
In the same pro-government daily, Miklós Novák thinks that the Hungarian referendum will not change anything in the EU, but will nonetheless be an important reference point in future debates on migration. Novák contends that even if the referendum had been valid, it would not have forced the EU to take a U-turn in its migration policy. Despite the fact that turnout was below the validity threshold of 50 per cent, the pro-government columnist thinks that it is absurd to suggest that the government was defeated at the referendum, ‘since it was supported by 98 per cent of the voters.’