The nation will go to the polls next week to vote on whether to accept ‘mandatory settlement of non-Hungarian citizens’. Viktor Orban, Hungary’s Prime Minister, is not taking any chances. On state television, advertisements warn of a growing migrant menace. Billboards across the country proclaim that Brussels plans to relocate a city’s worth of potential terrorists to Hungary. While ministers and lawmakers from the ruling right-wing Fidesz party are calling on supporters to go to the polls on 2 October to make sure Orban gets the answer he wants to the following referendum question: “Do you want the European Union to be able to order the mandatory settlement of non-Hungarian citizens in Hungary without Parliament’s consent?”
The latest opinion polls suggest at least two-thirds of the electorate will vote “no.” That probable outcome will be in part because Hungary, like its neighbours in the former Soviet bloc, has almost no experience with immigration. The country remains overwhelmingly white and Christian. But people will also be voting “no” in reaction to recent events. A year ago, Hungary was the epicentre of Europe’s refugee crisis. Keleti train station in Budapest became a giant open-air refugee camp as thousands of asylum seekers poured into the country across the southern border and stayed in the capital before eventually heading west to Germany. In response, Orban’s government built fences on its southern borders with Serbia and Croatia. “If we let the Muslims onto the continent to compete with us, they will outnumber us,” Orban said last year. “It’s mathematics. And we don’t like it.” Many Hungarians agreed with him, The Independent claims.
Now, as he rallies the country for a “no” vote in October, Orban is also pushing back against another perceived threat to Hungary’s identity – the European Union. Under the terms of the European Council’s Emergency Response Mechanism, adopted last September, member states agreed to relocate 160,000 people under a quota system (those asylum seekers are currently living mainly in Greece and Italy). Hungary was penciled in to take 1,294 refugees, but, along with Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Romania, it was hostile to the quota system from the start and voted against it. So far, Hungary has accepted no refugees under the plan. Instead, it has joined with Slovakia in challenging the plan in the European Court of Justice.