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Hungary Launches ‘National Consultation’ Targeting the EU, Migrants and Ukraine

A year and a half after winning a landslide victory in the parliamentary election, Hungary’s ruling Fidesz party has launched another “national consultation”, ostensibly as a way to protect the country’s national sovereignty but which observers believe is more designed to shore up its eroding voter base.

This will be its 12th such consultation since the government won power in 2010, all of them criticized by opposition parties and professional pollsters as propaganda tools that are manipulative and biased in their wording to get the answers the government wants. Indeed, this one centres on the theme of sovereignty, which has recently become a key term for the populist-nationalist government’s narrative in its fight against the EU and will be a leading theme in the campaign for the June 2024 European Parliament elections.

All 11 questions of the national consultation are formulated in a way that makes strong accusations against “Brussels” or the EU, which Hungary has been a member of for almost 20 years. The questions are binary, allowing only “yes” and “no” answers.

For example, one question is: “Brussels wants to establish migrant ghettos in Hungary. Do you think that we should not allow migrant ghettos to be established in Hungary or the migration plans from Brussels should be accepted?”

Another question notes that some of the EU’s financial support to Palestinians is syphoned off by Hamas and asks citizens whether Brussels should end funding to Palestinians or – despite terror threats – continue financing them.

Four questions are dedicated to Ukraine, asking citizens whether they agree with Ukraine’s EU membership (the EU has only just decided to open enlargement negotiations with Kyiv),  whether more weapons and money should be sent to the country at war, and whether Hungary should allow the import of “genetically modified” Ukrainian grain. Most of these questions are a safe bet for the government, as polls show a majority of Hungarians hold critical views of Ukraine as a result of years of anti-Ukrainian propaganda.

The results of the questionnaire are non-binding, but are designed to give Fidesz some “popular backing” in its negotiations with the European Commission and the Council of the EU.

Zoltan Novak of Meltanyossag Intezet (Centre for Fair Political Analysis), a Budapest-based think tank, told critical news site Nepszava that Orban wanted to rally his “hard-core” support and stop these voters from drifting away from the party. Fidesz has lost 600,000 to 800,000 voters since last year’s election, though opposition parties have largely failed to capitalise on the loss.

Novak admits that Fidesz has identified the core issues for Hungarian voters ahead of next year’s European elections and the national consultation could be seen as a warm-up to the campaign.

Samuel Agoston Mraz, head of the government-close Nezopont Institute, praised the governing party’s democratic commitment. “National consultations send a very strong message, they strengthen the democratic mandate when millions support the government’s position,” he told public radio.

Perhaps fearing a low turnout, Fidesz politicians are now embarking on a nationwide tour to promote the consultation and urge people to fill it out and return it by January 10.

Parallel to the national consultation, a billboard campaign has also been launched, depicting Alex Soros, son of Hungarian-born US billionaire George Soros and a hate-figure for the Orban government, and Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, alongside the slogan: “We won’t dance to their tune”.

Source : Balkan Insight