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Despite aggressive government campaign, Hungarians unsure of referendum

Elections

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Despite the Hungarian government’s heavy campaigning against the EU’s refugee settlement quota, the number of people planning to vote in line with the governing party’s stance at the referendum scheduled for October 2 has recently dropped, while the number of undecided voters has increased, according to research commissioned by Hungarian online daily index.hu.

Both at the end of July and August, approximately 53% of Hungarians said they were planning to participate in the referendum on October 2, although only 41% now say they are sure about how they will vote, the representative research by Závecz Research shows, according to index.hu.  

Figures show that no rise in the number of voters planning to participate in the referendum has been measured, despite the aggressive campaign the governing party Fidesz launched in August, criticized by many as propaganda. According to Hungarian media reports, Fidesz is planning to make the campaign supporting the governmentʼs stance in the referendum even more aggressive in the coming weeks.

The referendum will give citizens the opportunity to express opposition to the European Commission’s plan to make EU member states take in a certain quota of refugees. Hungarian citizens will be asked to answer the following question: “Do you want to allow the European Union to mandate the obligatory resettlement of non-Hungarian citizens in Hungary without the approval of parliament?”

Although activity is a factor difficult to measure by opinion polls, and therefore it is currently impossible to tell whether the referendum will be valid or not, it is likely that less than half of Hungarians with eligibility to vote will participate, according to Tibor Závecz, chief of Závecz Research. “It is doubtful, but not impossible that the referendum will be valid, but if the campaign Fidesz is currently running does not become stronger, and if the campaign of the opposition becomes more visible, there is a high probability that the referendum will not be valid,” Závecz told index.hu.

While opposition parties urge Hungarians not to attend as insufficient turnout would make the vote invalid, NGOs have recently been encouraging Hungarian voters to participate in October’s referendum, but to hand in invalid votes, to demonstrate opposition to the government’s stance on refugees.

NGOs urge Hungarians to show up for the vote, but to put an X in both the “yes” and “no” boxes, which will not raise the number of votes but will show opposition to the question, the Hungarian Helsinki Committee and the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union (TASZ) have claimed. Yet, according to the poll commissioned by index.hu, the proportion of those planning to attend and cast invalid votes is very low.

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