The sweeping majority of NO votes indicates that Hungarians view the issue of immigration not as a question of party performance, but as a national matter.
The referendum regarding quotas has resulted in a participation rate similar to the decisive referendum on whether to join the European Union in 2003 and has shown an even more unequivocal voter determination. In 2003, 84 percent of those casting a valid ballot supported Hungary’s accession to the European Union. Compared to this, based on initial results, roughly 98 percent of those casting a valid vote opposed mandatory quotas.
It is noteworthy that at this referendum it has been possible to mobilize a great majority of the voters expressing a unanimous response to the score of several millions, all this against the daunting pressure of a political climate stirred by opposition forces to encourage voters to abstain, which was not the case at the time of the referendum regarding EU accession, while at this referendum only the government parties urged voters to participate. In contrast, opposition forces have relegated this referendum to be a matter of party politicking, major leftist parties asking voters to abstain, while Jobbik formally urged voters to say „NO”, however, it has not contributed to mobilization efforts at all, instead it has criticized the government parties.
It is worthwhile to highlight that at the time of the 2014 elections one-directional votes in the amount of less than 3 million were adequate to provide the government parties with a two-third majority. At the previous parliamentary elections, the amount of domestic mandate-providing votes supporting Fidesz-KDNP amounted to 2.2 millions.
The result of the referendum therefore cannot remain without proper consequences. During the forthcoming weeks, first and foremost in the Hungarian Parliament, then later during the ensuing months at the European elections, the decision by the Hungarians can have repercussions concerning the refusal of mandatory quotas. Therefore it is worthwhile to consider the successful Hungarian referendum as part of a European renewal process: one of the key topics at the forthcoming Austrian, Dutch, French and German elections will be the shaping of current immigration policies and the relationship of these nations vis-a-vis the European Union. For this reason, there can be protracted domestic and foreign policy debates expected along these two topics, within which the proportion of „NO” votes casted at the referendum will carry extraordinary significance.
Based on Nézőpont Intézet’s poll on the day of the referendum, a representative sample pertaining to the domestic population indicated that 42 percent of the voters have casted valid ballots. The proportion of the NO votes was altogether 95 percent. This roughly amounted to 3 million 200 thousand „NO” votes in favor of the government. Those voting YES represented only 5 percent of the voters, amounting to about 168 thousand people.
81 percent of Hungarians are concerned about a new immigration wave and 89 percent think that Europe can be a victim of terrorism once again. Regarding these two issues, both leftist symphatizers and those with unknown party preferences have similar views, which clearly highlights the all-encompassing nature of the assessment towards immigration and terrorism – as Nézőpont Intézet’s most recent public opinion poll reveals, prepared at the request of Magyar Idők.
The Left’s referendum campaign could easily end up to be a debacle during the early phase of the official campaign, since the issues of immigration and particularly the right strategy to be selected for the October 2 referendum completely splintered and divided the leftist-liberal spectrum. Current developments allude to a situation whereas the leftist parties will plunge into their campaign for the 2018 elections in a disastrous state.
While earlier the MSZP supported the settlement of immigrants to Hungary, the party’s president today considers the government’s anti-quota stance acceptable. Due to this newest reversal, the recently elected Gyula Molnár could easily become disingenouos in the eyes of his own supporters.
What has also created a fault-line within the leftist liberal spectrum is that the Democratic Coalition led by Ferenc Gyurcsány has argued for mandatory settlement quotas, while taking on a position to boycott the referendum. Meanwhile, Együtt and PM launched an infantile campaign of irony similarly to the Two-tailed Dog Party, which only reiterated their inability to govern instead of addressing voters’ concerns. The Liberals are the sole representatives of a campaign urging people to participate in the referendum and voting yes.
The confusing rhetoric, their position vis-a-vis immigration and boycotting the referendum have all turned leftist liberal forces against their own supporters. Based on Nézőpont Intézet’s August polls, two-fifths of leftist sympathasizers rejects mandatory settlement, while one-third of MSZP voters actually plan to participate in the referendum vote based on an assessment by Závecz Research.
All in all, it seems that the Left today is anaemic, and since they cannot afford to master a campaign consuming vast amounts of energy a year and a half prior to the parliamentary elections, therefore they are urging voters to stay home during the referendum. By doing so, they are sending a message that they have no clear positions regarding one of the most severe crisis situations inflicted upon Europe also impacting our homeland. All this could have an impact on the assessment of their ability to lead the country, which ability is already viewed as a shaky one. In sum, they would prefer to skip over this referendum, which avoidance can easily be interpredeted as a precursor to the qualifying round of the 2018 elections.
68 percent of Hungarians are satisfied with the cabinet’s management of illegal border crossings, with over half – 51 percent – of opposition supporters also backing the cabinet in this respect – as Nézőpont Intézet’s most recent public opinion poll confirms at the request of Heti Válasz. According to the poll, there has been no substantial change in popular support for parties since July; governing parties continue to have a major lead over opposition groups.