Budapest, November 8 (MTI) – The government’s constitutional amendment bill seeking to ban the settlement of “foreign populations” in Hungary failed on Tuesday to secure the necessary two-thirds of votes in the Hungarian parliament.
The amendment submitted by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán was intended to legally embed the result of the Oct. 2 plebiscite in which almost 3.3 million Hungarians voted to reject EU quotas. The referendum was in response to a European Union migrant quota agreed in 2015 on resettling 160,000 migrants across the bloc. Hungary was set to receive 1,294 migrants. The government said its move was to prevent any future resettlements.
Today’s vote went 131 in favour and 3 against with the rest of lawmakers abstaining and the government fell short of the 133 votes needed for the amendment to pass.
Most left-wing lawmakers and Jobbik MPs abstained.
Jobbik had tied its willingness to vote for the government’s proposed constitutional amendment to the government’s willingness to scrap residency bonds, which, insisted Jobbik, is a corrupt scheme that threatens national security. The government insisted that the two issues were unconnected.
The Socialists and the green opposition LMP had earlier stated that they would abstain from voting.
Socialist and Jobbik lawmakers held up banners in parliament in protest against Tuesday’s vote. Jobbik’s banner stated: “Those who let in terrorists for money are traitors”.
Referring to recent press reports concerning a Fidesz official who had travelled by helicopter, the Socialists’ banners showed an image of a helicopter with a red line crossed through.
Jobbik leader Gábor Vona said his party’s lawmakers were ready to support the constitutional amendment if the residency bond scheme were cancelled. Vona told a press conference that the residency bonds should be scrapped and the offices selling them closed. Presenting three proposals on fighting terrorism, he said that Jobbik also demands the conclusion a case concerning Saudi businessmen Ghaith Pharaon, who is on an FBI wanted list for supporting terrorism and assisting illegal immigration. He had freely entered Hungary in 2015. Vona added that Jobbik proposes five-party consultations on these issues to be held on Friday.
Commenting on Tuesday’s vote, he said “for Fidesz, it is not the protection of the country that’s important, but the loot.”
Fidesz parliamentary group leader Lajos Kósa said the vote had made it clear that Hungary “can only rely on Fidesz and the [co-ruling] Christian Democrats” in the country’s “battle” against migrant quotas. He said it had also become clear that both the Socialists and opposition Jobbik had “deceived the people”, arguing that both parties had earlier expressed support for a constitutional amendment.
Opposition LMP parliamentary group leader Erzsébet Schmuck said her party “rejects accusations that people who have not walked into the Fidesz’s trap are traitors”. LMP did not take part in the vote because the proposed amendment was just a tool in the referendum campaign rather than a decision by lawmakers on the unlimited immigration quota, Schmuck said.
Democratic Coalition (DK) deputy chairman László Varju said Orbán had got “two slaps in the face” in a single month: the Oct. 2 quota referendum suggested that Hungarians had rejected his policies and lawmakers in Tuesday’s parliamentary vote expressed a similar view.
“Citing an invalid referendum, the prime minister tried to change the constitution without the authority to do so, but he was not successful,” he said.
Opposition party Együtt said Orbán should now focus “on the country’s real problems” after today’s vote. “The time has now come for Fidesz to give up dividing the country and its hateful campaign of hate and instead deal with the tragic situation in education and health care,” the party said in a statement.