Friday

23rd Feb 2018

Hungarian MPs sink Orban's anti-migrant plan

  • Not enough votes for Orban in the Hungarian parliament (Photo: Eszter Zalan)

Hungary's prime minister Viktor Orban suffered a blow on Tuesday after he failed to get the necessary two-thirds majority in parliament to pass constitutional amendments aimed at keeping migrants out of the country.

Far-right Jobbik, the Socialist Party and the green LMP did not vote, while three independent MPs voted no, stripping Orban of the necessary majority.

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  • Far-right Jobbik leader Gabor Vona refused to give its support to Orban (Photo: Jobbik website)

In the 199-seat parliament all members of Orban's ruling coalition, 131 MPs voted in favour of the seventh amendments to the constitution that was passed in 2011.

Orban needed just two more votes to succeed.

It is rare for the bellicose prime minister, whose party enjoyed a two-thirds majority between 2010 and 2015, to not get his way.

He submitted the amendments that aim to keep migrants out of Hungary despite the 2 October referendum on the issue being invalid because of low turnout.

However, in the plebiscite more than 3 million voters rejected EU migrant quotas -- more than 98 percent of the valid ballots.

Orban attempted to use that figure to push through legislation reinforcing the Hungarian parliament's rights to oppose any future plan by the EU to resettle asylum seekers among members of the bloc.

The proposed changes would have banned any migrant settlement without the approval of the national assembly and authorities.

Orban argued the amendment was needed to honour the referendum's result.

Jobbik's tactical move

But far-right Jobbik, which in principle agreed with the constitutional amendments and keeping out migrants, spotted an opportunity to put pressure on Orban.

They made their support conditional on the government scrapping a scheme that gives access to Hungary and the EU to wealthy investors, particularly from Russia, China and the Middle East.

The far-right party has been critical of the government’s shady residency bond programme, which gives Hungarian residency to applicants and their families for an initial refundable investment of €300,000 and a non-refundable €60,000 fee.

“Neither poor nor rich migrants should be allowed to settle in Hungary,” Jobbik leader Gabor Vona argued, saying the programme means national security risk.

Orban first considered Jobbik's offer, but then he said he would not give in to "blackmail".

Jobbik MPs held up a large sign in parliament on Tuesday, saying: “The traitor is the one who allows in terrorists for money!”

Defeat for Orban

"This is a considerable defeat for Fidesz, it is now the second occasion after the invalid referendum that things did not play out as Orban had planned," Csaba Toth of Budapest-based Republikon Institute told this website.

"It is a self-inflicted defeat for Fidesz that refused to compromise, making it clear that trying to gain political advantage on the long run over Jobbik is more important for them that pushing through the amendments," Toth said.

Toth said Fidesz will try to portray Jobbik as the traitors, but that it would be difficult to convince even the critics of nationalist Jobbik of that.

In the meantime Jobbik is arguing that for Orban's ruling Fidesz corruption is more important than national interest.

Tuesday's vote is another episode in the emerging power struggle between Orban's ruling Fidesz and Jobbik ahead of the 2018 elections.

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