Wednesday 22 November 2017

Orban defiant after migrant quota poll declared invalid despite 98pc No vote

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban casts his vote. Photo: AP
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban casts his vote. Photo: AP

James Rothwell

Viktor Orban's bid to strike a blow against Brussels faltered last night after his referendum on whether Hungary should accept EU migrant quotas was declared invalid after it failed to meet the turnout threshold.

More than 98pc of Hungarians voted No to the quotas in the referendum, but only 45pc of the eight million Hungarians registered to cast their vote did so, falling short of the required 50pc to make it legally valid.

Mr Orban played down his failure to bring enough voters to the polls last night, insisting there would be "legal consequences" regardless of the outcome.

The referendum was the brainchild of the far-right prime minister, who cast the No vote as a defence of the country's sovereignty and independence.

His 18bn forints (€57m) No campaign focused heavily on the fact that Isil 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.

And the country's counter-terrorism centre 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 Isil fighters posing as refugees with fake passports as they returned to central Europe via the Balkans route from Syria, intelligence chiefs said.

Data analysts claimed last night that Hungary's media also overwhelmingly backed the No vote, with 95pc of TV broadcasts leading up to the referendum supporting the government's position.

They also said 91pc of TV coverage about migrants in the same time period depicted them in a negative light.

Though the EU quotas would see only 1,924 migrants added to Hungary's population of 9.8 million, the vote is seen as highly symbolic of a tidal wave of anti-refugee sentiment sweeping across Europe.

Mr Orban maintains that parliament will pass legislation to advance the referendum's goal despite the turnout.

"The most important issue next week is for me to go to Brussels, hold negotiations and try with the help of this result - if appropriate - achieve for it not to be mandatory to take in the kind of people in Hungary we don't want to," he said. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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