Orbán boasts of a “new unity” after lackluster referendum

October 5, 2016

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“This is a new unity, which didn’t come from a party issue, but from above the parties, from a national issue.” – Viktor Orbán on the 39 percent of eligible voters who voted “no” in the quota referendum

A new slogan has been born into the ranks of the ruling Fidesz party which might define the post-referendum era. In a press conference announcing his intentions to change the constitution, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán made repeated reference to a “new unity” which was brought into being by the “overwhelming victory” of the referendum.

“This is a new unity, which didn’t come from a party issue, but from above the parties, from a national issue,” Orbán said at a press conference, declaring that no such unity had ever manifested before in any other issue. People of all party affiliations, young people, old people, men and women are all in the new unity, he said, “a true national formation which has no rigid contours.”

This “new unity”, according to the prime minister, made a resounding call for the government to take action on the issue of resettlement of refugees, in spite of insufficient voter turnout needed to make the referendum legally valid. The 98 percent of people who voted in the referendum voted “no” to mandatory refugee resettlement, something the government had a responsibility to do something about, he said.

If more people had voted, then the will of the people would have prevailed on its own accord, but since “it happened like this, enforcing the voice of the majority needs a parliamentary boost,” he said.

“We must enforce the will of the people. Because of the weight of the issue, the Fidesz-KDNP faction has chosen from the possible options to modify the constitution.”

Seventh time’s a charm

This will be the seventh time Fidesz has made changes to the constitution since 2012. The changes, according to Orbán, will occur in four places, the most important being article 14: “A person who does not have the rights of free movement and residence can only be settled in Hungary based on the individual evaluation by the Hungarian authorities of his request, and on the legal decision taken under process by the National Assembly. Group settlement is forbidden.”

This amendment would essentially ban any settlement of third-country nationals without the explicit, individual approval of Parliament. The constitutional changes will be ready for approval by the president by November 8, said Fidesz faction leader Lajos Kósa.

Orbán’s references to an unprecedented national unity seem to contradict other statements he made after the referendum about his own party having received unprecedented support. As 444.hu pointed out, Orbán said in Parliament the day after the referendum that

never has any single party or party alliance since 1990 received such a level of support.

This claim contradicts his boasts of a cross-party unity. On September 29, only three days before the referendum, Orbán said on TV2,

The people haven’t lost their commonsense, they know exactly that this isn’t about MSZP, about Jobbik, about Fidesz or about anyone, it’s about Christian democracy and the future of our homeland.