Hungary’s satire party takes on migrant referendum
By Eszter Zalan
It might sound like a joke that a satirical party is the only political group that is running a visible campaign against its country’s controversial anti-immigrant referendum.
But not in Hungary, where the Two-Tailed Dog Party (TTDP) has raised 29 million forints (€ 93,600) from citizens in just two weeks to launch a billboard campaign countering prime minister Viktor Orban’s drive to get people out to vote on 2 October.
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Orban is holding a referendum on EU migration quotas, and, over the summer, the government unveiled billboards linking migration with terrorism and criminality.
“Did you know? The Paris attacks were committed by migrants," claims one of the thousands of blue government billboards around Hungary.
Another government billboard says: "Did you know that since the start of the migration crisis there has been a sharp increase in the number of harassments against women in Europe?”.
"Did you know that Brussels wants to deport the equivalent of a town of migrants to Hungary?" says another one.
But the Two-Tailed Dog activists started to roll out their own 500 billboards and 500 smaller posters across the country from 1 September.
With a characteristically satirical twist, their billboards ask: “Did you know? There is war in Syria” and “Did you know? Corruption offences are mostly committed by politicians”.
Also: “Did you know? The people are not stupid”, and the more abstract “Did you know? What?”.
Gergely Kovacs, 35, the party’s leader said they generally do not want to get involved in daily politics, but they couldn’t remain silent on this occasion.
“This is the biggest mistake of the government. During the last year and a half, it has spent taxpayer money on inciting hatred,” he told Euobserver.
“It’s terrible that this has worked for them,” Kovacs said, adding that it is becoming difficult to distinguish Orban’s ruling Fidesz party from the far-right Jobbik, which now polls as the second-largest party in the country.
The question put to 8 million Hungarian voters on 2 October will be: “Do you want the European Union to be entitled to prescribe the mandatory settlement of non-Hungarian citizens in Hungary without the consent of parliament?”.
According to a previous EU agreement, which Hungary has challenged at the EU's top court, the country should take in around 1,300 asylum seekers.
Orban wants the referendum to give him a mandate to fight each and every EU plan on mandatory migration quotas, but Kovacs said it is also a convenient way to distract people’s attention from problems in education and health care.
“The government always looked for enemies, whether it is the banks, gays, Brussels, the homeless, or drug users,” Kovacs said.
He said “it is a sin to create this toxic mood in the country, it has a negative effect on society.”
“Millions are bashing the migrants now online, while they probably have seen more UFOs than migrants during their lives,” he said.
Hungary has built fences along its southern frontier with Serbia and Crotia last year, and only accepts around two-dozen asylum seekers per day.
Kovacs said his party is not advocating to “take in millions of people”.
“But we can certainly take 1,300. They would not want to stay here anyway,” he said.
“We just need to put a billboard on the border with Hungarian salaries on them to deter more migrants from coming,” he added.
He said his party’s humour is deadly serious.
“We are not running a campaign against Fidesz. We can’t answer one hate campaign with another hate campaign,” he said.
As the referendum drive heats up, smaller opposition liberal parties also plan a smaller scale billboard campaign calling on people not to go to vote.
The Socialist Party, the largest opposition party, has flip-flopped on the issue. It has said it is ready to support Fidesz in the EU “quota war”, but party leader Gyula Molnar told HirTV on Wednesday (31 August) that “the referendum is unnecessary”.
That leaves the Two-Tailed Dog party with the most visible push so far against the government’s anti-immigrant campaign.
It is an opposition party that receives no financial support from the state, but which has spent the most money on the counter-campaign, according to figures compiled by Index news site.
It is not the first time the satirical party, a loose group of artists and activists that came together in 2006, has taken on the government anti-immigrant rhetoric.
Not the first time
Last summer, it launched a campaign to counter the government’s narrative that migrants take Hungarians’ jobs with a mocking counter-billboard that said: “Come to Hungary, we’ve got jobs in London.”
Another one twisted the government’s call for migrants to adhere to Hungary’s laws. “If you are Hungary’s prime minister, you have to obey our laws”, it said.
The dog party - which intends to stand in the next general election in 2018 - is calling on people to cast an invalid vote in protest on 2 October.
“Stupid answer to a stupid question,” their billboards say, next to the Two-Tailed Dog logo.