Tag Archives: Antimigrant

Thousands in Hungary demand 'new and fair elections' after anti-migrant PM's win

Tens of thousands of anti-government protesters marched Saturday in the Hungarian capital of Budapest, demanding a new election and a new national electoral system in the biggest opposition rally in years.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban was re-elected for a fourth term last week. His right-wing populist Fidesz party won a supermajority in the national assembly, with preliminary results showing that Fidesz and tiny ally the Christian Democratic party won 134 seats in the 199-seat legislature.

Opposition supporters are upset that Hungary’s electoral rules have given Orban’s party such a large majority in Parliament when it only won around 50 per cent of the vote.

While the left-wing opposition parties won 12 of 18 seats at stake in Budapest districts, Fidesz won 85 of 88 seats outside the capital. The other 93 seats were allocated based on votes for party lists.

Protesters marched from the Opera to Parliament, shouting “New elections!” “We are the majority!” “Vik-tator!” and “Filthy Fidesz!”

Protesters marched from the Hungarian State Opera, shown above, to Parliament.(Zsolt Szigetvary/MTI via AP)

The size of the crowd, overflowing from the city’s Kossuth Square outside the striking neo-Gothic Parliament, rivalled the pro-government “Peace March” held on March 15. Organizers said another anti-government protest would be held next weekend.

“We want new and fair elections,” opposition activist Gergely Gulyas told the huge crowd. “This is the responsibility of the government and we’re going to remind them of this, peacefully and massively.”

Orban, whose campaign focused on the demonization of migrants, has promised “significant changes” in his next government, which could push for a constitutional amendment against migration.

A fragmented opposition, a complex electoral system that disproportionately favours the biggest party and Orban’s decision to greatly facilitate citizenship for Hungarians living in neighbouring countries like Romania and Serbia all contributed to his large win on April 8.

‘We’re not scared’

Over 96 per cent of voters in those bordering countries — including areas that Hungary lost after the First World War — backed Orban’s Fidesz party.

“When I asked my grandparents why they allowed [communist dictator] Matyas Rakosi to stay in power for so long, they answered that they were scared,” writer and journalist Gergely Homonnay, one of the rally’s organizers, told protesters. “Well, I’m not scared. We’re not scared.”

Hungarian independent MP Zsuzsanna Szeleny predicts Prime Minister Viktor Orban will use his supermajority re-election to continue his attacks on migrants.5:45

Homonnay said protesters had three requests: Changing the electoral system “which forever cements Fidesz in power;” ousting Chief Prosecutor Peter Polt, an Orban ally, because “as long as he is in office not a single corruption case will be investigated;” and getting Fidesz out of state media, which has become an unabashed promoter of government propaganda in recent years.

Orban claims that opposition parties want to turn Hungary into an “immigrant nation” with the help of the European Union, the United Nations and Hungarian-American billionaire and philanthropist George Soros. Opposition members deny the claim.

At the end of the rally Saturday, participants sang Hungary’s national anthem, as well as the EU anthem, which is based on Ludwig van Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy.”

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Anti-migrant PM claims election win, vows to 'defend Hungary'

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said his “decisive” re-election victory and the super majority in parliament his right-wing populist party appeared to have won Sunday were “an opportunity to defend Hungary.”

Critics said they feared Orban will use his third consecutive term and the Fidesz party’s two-thirds control of Hungary’s national legislature to intensify his attacks on migration and to strengthen his command of the country’s centralized power structure.

Hungary’s remaining independent media, the courts that have made numerous rulings the government did not like and a university founded by Hungarian-American billionaire George Soros, also are among Orban’s likely targets.

“We created the opportunity for ourselves to defend Hungary,” Orban told a rapturous crowd after his landslide win became undisputable. “A great battle is behind us. We have achieved a decisive victory.”

With 98.5 per cent of the votes counted, Fidesz and its small ally, the Christian Democrat party, together had secured 133 of the 199 seats in parliament, the minimum needed for a two-thirds majority.

Orban supporters react as the prime minister speaks on Sunday.(Attila Kisbenedek/AFP/Getty Images)

The right-wing nationalist Jobbik party placed second with 26 seats, while a Socialist-led, left-wing coalition came in third with 20 seats.

“As the results stand, Fidesz performed much better than expected,” said Tamas Boros, co-director of the Policy Solutions think-tank. “There were no small victories for the opposition.”

Orban won his fourth term overall on a platform that openly demonizes migrants to Europe. He first governed in 1998-2002 before returning to power in 2010 after two terms of scandal-filled Socialist rule.

Fidesz won a two-thirds majority in 2010 and 2014, but lost it in byelections in 2015.

Anti-migration campaign

Orban campaigned heavily on his unyielding anti-migration policies. He repeated his theory of a conspiracy between the opposition and the United Nations, the European Union and wealthy philanthropist Soros to turn Hungary into an “immigrant country,” threatening its security and Christian identity.

The government has already submitted a “Stop Soros” package of legislation that it would easily be able to pass if Fidesz’s obtains a two-thirds majority in parliament. Government spokesperson Zoltan Kovacs said the bills are designed to close “legal loopholes” allegedly exploited by civic groups that advocate for asylum-seekers.

People queue to cast their vote at a polling station that remains open during general elections in central Budapest, Hungary, on Sunday.(Noemi Bruzak/MTI via AP)

“So-called NGOs … are helping illegal immigration happen,” Kovacs said.

Government influence on the media was palpable in Sunday’s broadcast by state television M1 news channel, where reports highlighting the negative effects of migration dominated the programming.

On Origo.hu, a formerly independent website now owned by government allies, stories promoted Orban while also focusing on migration. The headlines included “Migrant gangs fought in England,” “They can’t stand it anymore in Sweden: They’ve had enough of migrants,” and “A migrant in underpants beat a German retiree half to death.”

Lajos Garai casts his ballot on Sunday in a polling station in the Hungarian steppe region of Hortobagy in County Hajdu-Bihar, some 180 kilometres east of Budapest.(Zsolt Czegledi/MTI via AP)

Hungarian election officials said voter turnout was high and had exceeded participation in the 2014 balloting 90 minutes before polls closed. Numerous polling places remained open past closing time to accommodate long lines of people waiting to cast ballots.

While Orban’s win was undeniable, the exact size of his margin of victory was not clear early Monday due in part to Hungary’s complex electoral system, in which voters cast ballots for both an individual candidate in their region and another for a party list.

Final election results are expected by April 27.

‘No genuine resistance’

Besides Jobbik and the Socialist-led coalition, only two other factions — former prime minister Ferenc Gyurcsany’s Democratic Coalition and the green Politics Can Be Different party — surpassed the five per cent threshold needed to form a parliamentary bloc. The legislature also will have one deputy each from three small parties.

Supporters of the Hungarian Socialist Party-Dialogue for Hungary react while watching election results at party headquarters in Budapest.(Peter Kohalmi/AFP/Getty Images)

Jobbik leader Gabor Vona, the president of the Socialist Party and several other politicians from the losing parties said they were resigning in view of the election results, though it was likely that many of them would continue their political careers, possibly in other positions.

Opposition parties had urged Hungarians to vote tactically for the candidate with the best chance to defeat the Fidesz candidate in the 106 individual districts — and they appeared to have won 15 individual seats compared to 10 in 2014.

Orban  will interpret the victory as an unequivocal authorization to continue as until now, but even more forcefully.– Tamas Boros, co-director of the Policy Solutions think-tank

Still, Fidesz improved its results in terms of the 93 seats distributed based on votes for entire party lists, getting 48.5 per cent compared to 44.9 per cent four years ago.

Boros noted that, politically, Hungary had been split in two. While the left-wing parties dominated in the capital city of Budapest by winning 12 of 18 individual constituencies, Fidesz candidates won 85 of 88 districts in the rest of the country.

“Orban will interpret the victory as an unequivocal authorization to continue as until now, but even more forcefully,” Boros said. “He will feel even less constrained by any limits … as politically there is no genuine resistance to him.”

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