Orbán tells parliament “Hungarians wrote history” in Sunday referendum

October 4, 2016

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“Hungarians wrote history on Sunday, the no votes won an overwhelming victory for Hungary.” – Viktor Orbán

“I’m angry with you, and I demand your resignation!” – Jobbik chairman and MP, Gábor Vona, addressing Orbán in parliament

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán took to the floor of the Hungarian Parliament Monday to give his evaluation of the referendum held the day before on EU refugee resettlement quotas.

The referendum was legally invalid due to insufficient participation, with just under 40 percent of eligible voters casting valid ballots, well beneath the necessary 50 percent-plus-one threshold. Still, the prime minister and Fidesz party leaders have celebrated it as a “historic victory” and a clear mandate from the Hungarian people to take legal action against directives from Brussels.

“No party or party coalition has received this much support since 1990,” Orbán said. “One million more voters affirmed their trust in the government’s position in Sunday’s quota referendum than voted to return Fidesz-KDNP to government in 2014.”

Orbán’s extensive statements in Parliament made no mention of the fact that over 60 percent of the electorate either stayed away or cast an invalid ballot. Echoing statements made earlier, he claimed that the overwhelming proportion of “no” votes in the referendum makes clear the will of the Hungarian people, and that the vote had served to reinforce the government’s mandate.

“The goal was to pour clean water into the glass, and to make it clear what Hungarians want in the case of mass migration,” Orbán said. “Hungarians wrote history on Sunday. The no votes won an overwhelming victory for Hungary.”

The government must now do two things in light of the result, he said. First, it must put a proposal for changes to the Fundamental Law before the parliament “in the spirit of the referendum.” It must also enforce the result of the referendum in Brussels.

“A difficult and arduous road is ahead of us,” Orbán said, “but I will do everything I can to enforce the will of the majority of Hungarians” in Brussels.

Orbán acknowledged that although the referendum result does not oblige the government to take any legal action, they would begin drafting changes to the constitution “in the spirit of the referendum.” He did not elaborate on exactly what kinds of changes the government plans.

Off with the gloves

After the prime minister’s initial statements on the “historic victory”, opposition politicians had the chance to make statements on the floor of parliament.

Extreme-right Jobbik chairman Gábor Vona took to the podium and sharply criticized Orbán for spending HUF 15 million on the referendum campaign when Jobbik had already made proposals in Spring to modify the constitution concerning immigration policy. Orbán damaged his homeland with his irresponsible mistake, Vona claimed, and Hungary is now in a worse position than before in the fight against the quota because Brussels will be able to refer to the invalid referendum.

“I’m angry with you, and I demand your resignation,” Vona told Orbán, adding that the prime minister should step down like David Cameron did after Brexit. “I know that you won’t [resign], I see it on your face,” he said.

In an unprecedented turn, Orbán responded to Jobbik’s criticisms by accusing the extreme-right, euroskeptic party of being bought by the EU and of “cheering for Brussels,” which according to him is an “unpatriotic and incorrect step.” He called Jobbik a “bought party” and dismissed them as European pawns.

The prime minister also made digs at the Hungarian Socialist Party (MSZP), saying it “has always been a European party” that was always looking for European solutions. The European solution to the migrant question is “bad for Hungary,” he said.

MSZP faction leader Bertalan Tóth said Fidesz must have been watching “a different film” on Sunday when the referendum results came in. The result was a 5-3 defeat for Fidesz, he said, because a clear majority of voters, 5 million people, refused to participate in Fidesz’s “pointless, expensive and lying comedy”.

Tóth said: “The referendum was invalid, it returned no result. To do anything in reference to this would be unconstitutional.”