Reuters: Hungarian PM rallies diaspora in bid to vote down EU migrant quotas

orbanHungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban is rallying support among ethnic Hungarians in central Europe as he pushes for the rejection of European Union migrant quotas in a referendum on Oct. 2. At home, Orban, 53, is running a billboard campaign urging Hungarians to vote against what his government has called a dangerous European Commission proposal to distribute migrants and refugees across EU member states, according to Reuters.com.

For Orban, the quotas represent a challenge to Hungary’s sovereignty and an attempt to change the ethnic and cultural make-up of the country against its will. He hopes the vote will give him a mandate to challenge Brussels.

But for the referendum to be valid, Orban will need half of all eligible voters, or at least 4.23 million people including ethnic Hungarians outside the country, to cast a vote – a high bar after referendums on Hungary’s EU and NATO membership failed to break above the 50 percent turnout.

This time Orban hopes to tap into rising anti-immigrant sentiment and fears of Islamist militant attack to get people to vote.

Last year hundreds of thousands of migrants crossed Hungary, mainly from the Middle East, North Africa and Asia, en route to richer northern Europe. Orban’s government built a razor-wire fence on the southern border to halt the flow, a move criticized by rights groups.

“Did you know that since the start of the migration crisis, more than 300 people died in terror attacks in Europe?” asks one of the government’s latest adverts.

Even in the restive regions of Romania, which, unlike Hungary, have no first-hand experience of the migration crisis, anti-migrant sentiment is running high and messages feeding these concerns are falling on fertile ground.

“In my view, and I think it is clear, there have been quite a lot of problems since the migrants arrived,” said Karoly Balla, 61, selling hand-woven textiles with his wife at a folk market in the center of Cluj-Napoca.

“If you look at France, where migrants came in a long time ago, there are major troubles. We would not want that.”

Balla said he would vote on Oct. 2 to reject the quotas.

 

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