Opposition leaders call for boycott of “EU refugee settlement quota” referendum

September 1, 2016


“There is no message to send to Brussels.  The referendum is meaningless in every respect.” – Lajos Bokros, chairman, MoMa

Three Hungarian opposition political parties announced today they are joining forces to persuade voters to stay home on October 2 rather than participate in a government-sponsored referendum on whether the EU should be permitted to settle illegal immigrants in Hungary without the consent of parliament.

Opposition leaders from Együtt (Together), Dialogue for Hungary (PM) and the Movement for a Modern Hungary (MoMa) kicked off their joint campaign with an outdoor press conference.  Standing in front of a large banner featuring what appears to be Együtt vice-president Péter Juhász and a woman sitting at home giving the referendum the middle finger, MoMa chairman Lajos Bokros, Együtt chairman Viktor Szigetvári and PM co-chair Gergely Karácsony called for the referendum boycott.

Bokros said: “We believe that this is the only worthy response to the government’s unworthy initiative.  This is the answer to a stupid question.  There is no good answer to a villainous question.”  The former member of the European Parliament explained that “a boycott expresses that neither a `no` vote or a `yes` vote is appropriate.”  He emphasized that “the European Union does not wish to settle so-called illegal immigrants either in Hungary or in other member states,” but rather expects EU members to fulfill their treaty obligations.  There is no message to send to Brussels” and the referendum was “meaningless in every respect.”

Szigetvári, Bokros, Karácsony. "Support our campaign if you think this is the answer"
Viktor Szigetvári, Lajos Bokros and Gergely Karácsony. “Support our campaign if you also think this is the answer”

Calling the referendum question “evil” and “villainous”, the former finance minister said “the government’s propaganda is based on lies” and “it harmed Hungary’s international reputation and discredits our country.”  He pointed out that the governments of the other 27 EU member states had not launched a “xenophobic, poisonous, evil and vile” campaign, and that a boycott on October 2 was the only “worthy answer.”

Thanking Együtt and PM for their cooperation, Bokros said that only by collaborating with one another could the democratic opposition oppose “autocracy.”

Notably absent from the joint opposition initiative were the Hungarian Socialist Party (MSZP) and Politics Can Be Different (LMP), the only two opposition parties with parliamentary delegations.  MSZP announced yesterday that, while it does not support the referendum, it intends to cooperate with the government on efforts to prevent the EU from “settling illegal immigrants” in Hungary.


Együtt chairman Viktor Szigetvári said: “We are disgusted by what [Prime Minister] Viktor Orbán is doing to the country: with this anti-European campaign he is lying about Europe and about our homeland.”  In Szigetvári`s opinion Orbán has been destroying the country “for decades.”  The opposition politician said the quota of refugees to be settled in Hungary was part of a European solution to the refugee problem, and it was the border fence that he opposed.  He said Orbán’s goal was the destruction of the European Union, and the three parties are starting to raise money to cover campaign costs.“We hope that over the course of the campaign they will not call the police on us,” said Szigetvári, referring to what had happened the previous day in the eastern city of Nyiregyháza [where police prevented Együtt politicians from campaigning].  He called on people to “help defeat Viktor Orbán and his inhuman initiative” by boycotting the referendum.

"This is the answer to a stupid question"
“This is the answer to a stupid question.  Who stays at whom votes for Europe.”

PM co-chair Gergely Karácsony called the institution of referendum “the biggest political swindle of the past decade.”  The mayor of Budapest’s District 14 said Hungary had participated in several refugee solutions over the past decades, but none of these had domestic political relevance.  He believed that if the government wanted to it could find a solution that involved dialogue, constructive measures and rational behavior.  Instead, “the government wants people to fear and to live in terror” in order to distract their attention from those problems which Fidesz cannot and does not want to deal with:  public health-care, public education, the economy, poverty and the theft of public funds. Karácsony said the biggest problem with the referendum was that “they don’t only want to steal the people`s money but their soul as well and their good intentions”, and accused the government of fomenting hatred instead of peace and cooperation.

He said a boycott of the referendum is the most sensible solution to stopping the politics of hatred.  The real question was whether the Orbán regime was capable of deceiving the majority of Hungarian society with its own immense propaganda. Karácsony said he hopes the referendum will not be successful, so that “when the political balloon bursts, then we can finally discuss what kind of future we want for this country.”

Szigetvári said they planned to run up to 400 billboards in cities across the country beginning September 15.