Considering how the whole idea and then the proposal to hold a referendum unfolded, it is clear from the start that this whole matter is a well prepared tactic of Fidesz which the party may use to hide other problems such as crises in health-care, housing and education. It is also worth noting that it is a message, a show of power making it clear who may successfully propose a referendum, while everyone else will face insurmountable obstacles.
Following this procedure, the Parliament quickly voiced its support for the referendum with a simple majority on 10 May. Fidesz and Jobbik MPs accounted for a total of 136 “yes” votes, MSZP and LMP abstained, and there were only 5 “no” votes from independent representatives. Furthermore, Jobbik suggested - as a quicker and cheaper solution - to amend the constitution, adding a clear refusal of the settlement quotas. The appalling reality is that lately, changing the Hungarian constitution seems like the easiest way to push through something terrible despite the fact that it is exactly what is supposed to serve as a fundamental and stable collection of principles. The parliament also voted on the budget, the total costs are set at 4,9 billion HUF (cca 15,5 million EUR).
The AB - the country’s constitutional court - also rejected all new appeals, so President Áder János could finally set the date: on 5 July he announced that the date of the referendum will be 2 October.
Hungarian parties reacted immediately: Fidesz and Jobbik of course support the rejection of refugee quotas and back the “no” answer. Government spokesperson Zoltán Kovács announced in Tusnádfürdő that “the Government is calling on repatriated cross-border Hungarians to participate in the referendum”. Even if we don’t go into details about this - since it would require another long article - it is just ridiculous that they invite to vote those Hungarians who live on the other side of the strictly protected borders and fences.
Jobbik still maintains its position about an anti-quota constitutional amendment in case of a possible failure on the referendum...
The - new and small - Liberal Party suggests to go and vote pro-quota, arguing citizens cannot make a revolution sitting in their chairs, people have to act, have to be active if they want changes. In general we definitely agree with encouraging participation and active citizenship, but in this case voting legitimizes this xenophobic game and with a yes, voters would support the quota-system, a forced relocation mechanism proposed by the EU - based on hierarchization of people.
LMP will not mobilize people, but instead they leave the decision to the voters. They would support to keep the quota decisions at the national level, but they do not want to mobilize people since the referendum is a manipulative proposal. MigSzol thinks it is not a clear message, and with this seemingly neutral stand they also promote the “no” answer, which means support for the politics of hate and fences as lately proposed by the European Commission. Unfortunately,this is not a new element in the politics of LMP.
MSZP, DK, PM and Együtt are promoting the boycott. MSZP and DK say pretty much the same: stay home to stay in Europe, but MSZP don’t call it a boycott, since they say it is a legitimate referendum. Their argument is that the referendum is not about refugees, it's a tool to lead Hungary out of the EU. MSZP is organizing a Free Europe-day picnic. DK will be starting a campaign on 2 September to promote the boycott (‘stay home to stay in Europe’). They are also planning to have a human chain around the Parliament on 1 October to protest against this fake referendum as they call it.
PM will hold a demonstration for a tolerant, inclusive and peaceful Hungary and Europe, held on the day of the referendum. They say the vote is just another tactic from a ‘maniac fighter’ prime minister and from a ‘skinhead government’ to divert attention from real social issues. We would like to point out that a tolerant and inclusive Europe would also mean canceling the brutal EU-Turkey deal.
Együtt has a boycott campaign with events and street actions, they contrast Europe and Russia: their message is that this referendum is a choice between Europe or Putin, free life or oppression. They call for a boycott to not let this happen. We have to mention that Russophobia is also xenophobia, and can also be a dangerous tool and may lead to racism - even though Putin himself is a threat as well.
In MigSzol we also think that boycotting is the best answer for this referendum.* We are happy to see that all the Hungarian political parties have a clear stand on this matter, and that everybody reacted quickly. At the same time, we were still expecting that at least some of the opposition parties would also mention the quota-system itself, and that they would also have a clear stand on asylum policies. However, so far, this did not really happen. Furthermore, some politicians of the opposition stated that the quota-system is not about accepting refugees, it is only to finish their asylum procedure, their documentation. This is incorrect: when someone receives refugee status, that person has to stay in the country which granted asylum, no matter how little education or work opportunities there may be in that country. Moreover, we shouldn’t forget that we are talking about human beings, not about bureaucratic tasks.
We also think that it is a dangerous way to divert attention from the idea of inclusion. We still hope Hungary can become a place where refugees want to stay, are able to stay and start a new life. This approach should also be on the agenda of Hungarian parties, they should be talking about how to make this country more inclusive.
We are a bit worried, it seems that maybe the propaganda works so well that even leftist political parties in Hungary will think and talk less and less about migration, ethnic –and of course all types of - diversity in society. Since last summer, voters, citizens cannot really see neither strong alternatives opposing the government’s anti-migration propaganda, nor alternatives for a better functioning asylum-system, for integration and inclusion, and the lack of alternatives is also a serious problem.
Lastly, we hope that the referendum will also generate discussion about the ways in which European asylum policy is made. Although Viktor Orban’s asylum policies are extremely brutal, it does not automatically mean that EU policies are good, and the referendum is a great opportunity to call attention to the ways in which also EU policies, such as the Dublin Regulation, are inhumane.
*MigSzol’s Position on the Quota system
The quota system is a forced relocation mechanism for people seeking international protection proposed by the EU. We oppose the artificial hierarchy and selection of people, including their division based on nationality and ‘skills’, which is enforced by the mechanism.
We support people in their choices to move freely and strictly oppose all forms of forced relocation, be it the Dublin regulation or the EU relocation scheme, known as quota system.
MigSzol’s Position on the Referendum
We stand up for a boycott of the referendum because we reject the government’s attempt to use the topic of migration and the right to asylum for propaganda and EU-wide power bargaining. We see both options given as unacceptable.
Voting ‘No’ means to support the government’s xenophobic propaganda and politics of fencing off. Voting ‘Yes’ means to agree with a scheme of forced relocation by the EU that places a problematic concept of ‘fairness’ between states above solidarity between human beings with wishes and choices. Choosing any of the two options legitimizes the referendum as such and adds weight to the validity of the outcome and the (mis)use of the referendum for government propaganda. Voting either ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ asks of us to decide over the future of people who are denied any political voice and reduced to a burden which is met with bureaucratic and forceful rule. We claim politics back and thus the right of everyone to decide over their future.
We, as Migszol, want to propose a third option: for freedom of movement and for real protection and support of people. Let’s protest and demand this together!