Hungary has voted emphatically against accepting EU migrant quotas, exit polls suggest, in a cry of defiance against Brussels that is likely to cement the country’s status as the leader of a “counter-revolution” against the bloc’s central powers.
Telegraph As many as 95 per cent of voters voted “No” to the quotas in Sunday’s referendum, though there were fears on Sunday night that the result could be declared invalid due to a low turnout.
The referendum was the brainchild of Hungary’s hardline conservative prime minister, Viktor Orban, who cast the “No” vote as being in defence of the country’s sovereignty and independence.
His campaign focused heavily on the fact that Muslim terrorists, such as those behind the Paris and Brussels attacks, posed as migrants in 2015 while returning from Syria along the so-called “Balkans route” of eastern European countries, including Hungary.
The country’s counter-terrorism centre also revealed this week that Hungary became a “logistics hub” for jihadists in the months leading up to the November 13 massacre in Paris, which left 130 people dead and a further 368 injured. The “hub” was used to co-ordinate ISIS fighters who were posing as refugees with fake passports as they returned to central Europe, intelligence chiefs said.
Data analysts claimed on Sunday evening that Hungary’s media overwhelmingly backed the “No” vote, with 95 per cent of TV broadcasts leading up to the referendum supporting the government’s position. They also said that 91 per cent of TV coverage about migrants in the same time period depicted them in a negative light.
The vote is seen as highly symbolic of a tidal wave of anti-refugee sentiment sweeping across Europe. It will only be declared valid if turnout exceeds 50 per cent, and it was unclear on Sunday evening whether that target had been reached.
However, Mr Orban has insisted that parliament will pass legislation to advance the referendum’s goal even if turnout falls short of the mark.
“The most important issue next week is for me to go to Brussels, hold negotiations and try with the help of this result – if the result is appropriate – achieve for it not to be mandatory to take in the kind of people in Hungary we don’t want to,” he said after casting his vote at a primary school in the Buda hills.
“We are proud that we are the first” he added. “Unfortunately we are the only ones in the European Union who managed to have a (referendum) on the migrant issue.”
The referendum asked voters: “Do you want the European Union to be able to prescribe the mandatory settlement of non-Hungarian citizens in Hungary even without the consent of Parliament?”
The decisive Hungarian vote came as Sebastian Kurz, the Austria’s foreign minister, said the European Union should drop its plan to distribute 160,000 refugees around the member states.
Mr Kurz also warned against western countries like Germany taking the “moral high ground” against the more recently-joined eastern EU states who have rejected the mostly-Muslim refugees as a threat to their white-Christian identity and culture.