Budapest, July 5 (MTI) – President János Áder has set the date for the government-initiated referendum on the EU’s mandatory migrant quota scheme for October 2.
In the referendum, Hungary’s voters 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?”
Under the election procedures law, the official campaign may start 50 days before the referendum date. Political advertisements are not allowed in any media unless they submit their promotion price list to the State Audit Office (ÁSZ) in advance.
Hungary has a voter base of some 8 million nationals with a permanent address in the country.
Hungarian nationals without a residence in Hungary are allowed to vote by mail. Letters containing the vote can also be submitted to Hungary’s representative offices, or at any local election office in Hungary.
Hungarian residents staying outside the country can vote at any Hungarian representation in foreign countries, however, they need to register with the public notary of their residence until September 24.
The referendum plan was announced by the prime minister on February 24. The reason given by the government was that only Hungarians rather than Brussels could decide who they want to live together with in their own country.
The question was approved by the National Election Committee in late February.
Four appeals against the committee’s approval were then submitted, which the Kuria, Hungary’s supreme court, rejected in early May.
Parliament approved the initiative on May 10 with 136 votes in favour by the allied ruling Fidesz and Christian Democratic parties, and opposition Jobbik. Five independent lawmakers voted against.
The Constitutional Court rejected appeals against the initiative on June 21 giving the president 15 days to set the date of the referendum, which should fall on a Sunday.
The prime minister’s cabinet chief encouraged voters to participate in the referendum and reject “Brussels’ forced settlement” scheme. At a press conference, Antal Rogán insisted it was “up to Hungarians to decide who they want to live together with”.
Rogán said that 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 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.
Radical nationalist Jobbik, on the other hand, encouraged residents to participate and vote against the quota. Jobbik spokesman Ádám Mirkóczki said that his party was against “any senseless diktat from Brussels”.
The Liberal Party also 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.
Dialogue for Hungary (PM) party
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.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel
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”.