23rd Oct 2016

Barbed wire and penises mock Orban's referendum

  • A ballot mimicking John Lennon's Imagine album cover, with the Yes/No circles representing his eyes.

From reminders of the Syrian civil war to obscene cartoons: Hungarians found creative ways to cast an invalid vote in Sunday's (2 October) referendum on EU migration quotas.

On Sunday, social media was awash with pictures taken by Hungarian voters of the ways they made their ballots invalid.

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  • On another ballot was the iconic photo of a Syrian boy sitting shellshocked in an ambulance after a bombing in Aleppo.

With over 200,000 spoiled votes found in ballot boxes, it is the highest number of invalid papers ever cast in a vote in Hungary according to local media.

One powerful image was a picture glued to a ballot box of the Syrian boy sitting shellshocked in an ambulance after a round of bombings is the Syrian town of Aleppo.

Others went to greater lengths. One voter used pliers to attach a piece of barbed wire between the No and Yes options of the ballot, referring to the fence that Hungary erected last year along its southern borders to stop migrants.

One voter drew the face of John Lennon mimicking his album cover, Imagine, with the Yes/No circles representing the former Beatles musician's eyes.

A lot of other ballots were defaced by drawings of penises.

A selection of spoiled ballots can be viewed here and here.

The pictures themselves are a form of civil disobedience - according to guidance issued by the national election committee, the ballot should not be photographed.

Others commenting on social media also raised the issue of violating the secrecy of the vote by uploading a picture of it to the internet.

But none of it stopped the Hungarian dissenters.

Some drew flowers on their ballot, while others glued a picture of US presidential nominee Donald Trump's head, ticking the box for Trump rather than picking from the the Yes/No options.

Trump, like the Hungarian prime minister, Viktor Orban, who organised Sunday’s referendum as well as a xenophobic billboard campaign, is known for his anti-immigrant populism.

Another voter drew Pokemon balls in the Yes/No circles, by reference to the popular mobile app game.

Another one still wrote “shana tova” - a Hebrew greeting for the Jewish new year, which coincided with the referendum.

'Not a lame country'

Hungary's satire party, the Two-Tailed Dog Party had urged voters to cast invalid ballots in protest.

It had also organised a counter-Orban billboard campaign of its own in the run-up to Sunday.

Its leader, Gergely Kovacs, hailed the high number of invalid votes, saying the referendum showed that ”we’re not as lame a country as the government would like us to be”.

The referendum, in the end, failed to reach the required threshold for legal validity, with the spoiled ballots playing a small role in the equation.

But Orban still claimed victory, saying the fact that most of the people who did vote, voted no to EU quotas, gave him a political mandate to enshrine his opposition to the EU scheme in Hungary’s constitution.

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