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New Europe
Orban’s Big Referendum Win

Hungary’s Viktor Orban got his vote on migrants, and it went overwhelmingly his way: 98 percent voted against the EU forcing Hungary accepting migrants without the Hungarian parliament’s approval. Politico:

“In this era of referendums, he wants to show he can use referendums for his own purpose; he is not afraid to consult the voters,” said Milan Nič, head of the Europe program at GLOBSEC Policy Institute, a think tank in Bratislava focused on foreign policy and security issues.

“If we have the politics of anger and identity politics as the new wild horse in European politics, he is showing he can jump on the wild horse and ride it,” Nič said. “Yes, there is a populist backlash and look, I not only survived it, I’m riding it.”

Of course, it was a non-binding referendum; voter turnout was at 43.35 percent, short of the 50 percent threshold for making the vote valid; and Brussels has already started to ease its insistence on the deeply unpopular resettlement provision. Nevertheless, as Politico goes on to note, “Hungary’s referendum to join the EU in 2003 generated 45.6 percent turnout and even then only 83.8 percent voted in favor.”

From an immediate policy standpoint, this vote won’t make a difference. But symbolically, this weekend was an important one for Orban. European leaders had best not make too many delusional excuses for themselves. A new era is dawning in Europe, and the blinkered Wilsonian utopianism that has captivated modern EU bureaucrats’ imagination since the end of the Cold War will no longer suffice to keep the project on track.

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  • Arkeygeezer

    “A new era is dawning in Europe, and the blinkered Wilsonian utopianism
    that has captivated modern EU bureaucrats’ imagination since the end of
    the Cold War will no longer suffice to keep the project on track.”

    It seems like the same observation would apply to the United States.

  • David Baer

    To describe Hungary’s referendum result as a “big win” for Orbán may fit nicely with the dominant narrative about the decline of European institutions and the rise of right wing European populism, but unfortunately in this case it hardly comports with the facts. Despite Orbán’s enormous efforts, the referendum was invalid. The Hungarian government spent €48 million on advertising its support for this referendum, while the weak and disorganized liberal opposition called for a boycott. Despite the tilted playing field, the week opposition won out. The majority of Hungarians stayed home. True, 43% of eligible voters participated in the referendum, but more than 6% of those voters deliberated defaced their ballots in protest. The remaining 98% voted for Orbán’s policy. When does the vote in a democratic country go 98% one way? Despite an enormous government sponsored anti-migrant campaign, 60% of the Hungarian population refused to support a vote against quotas supported by Europe’s “elites.” As the leader of Hungary’s far right party Jobbik, Gábor Vona, pointed out, Orbán’s hand is weaker now than before the referendum. Next time Orbán carries his agenda to Brussels, they can say, “you couldn’t even pass your referendum.” Certainly there’s lots of evidence to support the narrative of EU decline, but the Hungary referendum is a counter-factual. TAI ought to do better than repackaging facts to fit into preconceived narratives.

    • gabrielsyme

      Hungarian referendums have a long history of low turnout. Hungary held referendums on joining NATO and the EU, decidedly more important issues – neither resulted in a turnout of over 50% despite not facing a campaign recommending abstention. In such a context, the 43% turnout is quite respectable.

    • Beauceron

      “When does the vote in a democratic country go 98% one way?”

      When many people refused to vote? And when many others– as is true here in the US– don’t vote anyway.

      You quickly gloss over how you wrongly counted every person who did not vote as a supporter of the opposition (” 60% of the Hungarian population refused to support a vote against quotas supported by Europe’s ‘elites.’ “). A quick and easy Google search shows that voter turnout in Hungary is never exactly spectacular (

      Voter turnout for the EU parliament election in 2014 was 29% and turnout for the national parliament in 2014 was 61%.

      So claiming all those who didn’t vote as de facto supporters of the opposition is, to be kind, disingenuous.

      • David Baer

        Beauceron, I noticed from your profile page that you’ve posted more than 4000 comments on disqus. Where do you get the time to post so many comments? Are you on some government’s payroll?

        • Beauceron

          Nope, been a member for years.

          So, given the rather smelly red herring you’ve just tossed onto the table, I suppose you have no answer– or even a decent excuse– for your disingenuousness?
          For shame, David Baer. For shame.

          • David Baer

            Thanks for clearing that up, Beauceron. Maybe we should take this over to twitter. Oh wait, I’m the only guy on this discussion board with a real identity.

          • Beauceron

            You’re just a parade of non sequiturs are you, David?

            The fact that you are allegedly using a real name doesn’t add any credence or veracity to your points– just as the fact that I use a nom de net doesn’t invalidate mine.

            Maybe just stop digging, bro.

            Hey, are you THIS David Baer?


            “WHP News Director David Baer Arrested in Prostitution Sting, Former Reporter Says”


          • Andrew Allison

            Wrong again.

    • Jim__L

      I’m reminded of the old Sesame Street song, which has a bit that goes, “Spiiiiiiin around with a spin spin spinny spin, spinny spinny spin spin!”

      Face it, Orban won, and won hands-down. There are more than enough Hungarians willing to buck the EU, to make the EU’s declarations a dead letter. Enforcement of the EU’s will here is going to be basically impossible.

      Other countries will notice this, and follow suit.

      If the EU doesn’t back down on this, the EU is basically finished.

    • Tom Scharf

      NPR also had this hilarious take. 98% of votes were against accepting immigrants, but less than 50% voted so “nothing to see here”. Yes, nothing can be interpreted here at all. Nothing. Just wait and see when HRC wins by about 5% if they use the same standards to interpret the results.

      If the EU continues to go against the will of the people, they can expect EurExit to follow. It would be wise to note it didn’t meet a legal threshold but HEED.IT.ANYWAY. Lack of a legal threshold does not equal lack of input from the voters.

  • Beauceron

    I think “Eurocrats” have amply demonstrated that they don’t care one way or the other what their citizens think– just like our elitist politicians.
    Anyone who does actually bother to listen to the people are quickly condemned as populists.

    • Andrew Allison

      Doesn’t the fact that we keep reelecting 95%-or-so of them say something about getting the government we deserve?

  • Boritz

    They need a court system like the U.S. that overrules the will of the people as expressed by referendum when it opposes the elites.

    • Andrew Allison

      I share your pain, but the only national referendum which we have is the biennial Congressional election, and we the sheeple keep sending back the same reprehensatives.

  • Kev

    Talk is cheap for a politician, and this referendum will change nothing for EU immigration policy. I will begin to respect Orban when he grows some balls and takes his country out of the EU.

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