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Racist propaganda falls short in Hungary’s anti-refugee referendum

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Issue 2524
Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban
Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban (Pic: European Parliament)

Hungary’s right wing government failed to get a big enough turnout in last Sunday’s referendum on stopping the European Union (EU) settling refugees in the country.

Turnout was below 50 percent, so the vote was not binding—but 98 percent of the 43 percent who voted backed the government.

Some opposition parties called for a boycott to not legitimise it and this has been successful.

The result is a welcome setback for the ruling racist populist Fidesz party, but the referendum has whipped up racism. It will bolster the racist right and the fascist party Jobbik—the third largest party in parliament.

The government spent £42.5 million on pumping out racist propaganda and sent 4.1 million booklets to Hungarians.

Prime minister Viktor Orban had called the vote in protest at EU asylum plans, which include permanent quotas for distributing refugees based on member states’ size and wealth.

A pro-refugee protest in Hungary last year

A pro-refugee protest in Hungary last year (Pic: Ádám Szedlák/flickr)

Orban whipped up racism against refugees partly to win back support he had lost to Jobbik.

Fidesz is against leaving the EU because it would hurt Hungarian capitalism.

Orban’s party doesn’t challenge the EU on its austerity. Instead they channel anger against its free market policies in a racist direction.

The rise of the racist and fascist right in Hungary is a product of the country’s profound social crisis.

In the 2000s the Hungarian middle class was encouraged to take out cheap mortgages on the Swiss franc and the euro.

But the financial crisis of 2008 smashed the middle class and fuelled support for Jobbik.

The right at first focused its racism against Jewish and Roma people.

But as the refugee crisis hit last summer, the ruling class also turned to Islamophobia and racism against refugees.

Orban’s failure to achieve a clear-cut mandate from the referendum shows that there is a potential to push back against racism in Hungary.

Narrow vote rejects Farc peace deal in Colombia

In a shock result Colombians narrowly voted against a peace deal between the government and guerrilla group Farc last Sunday.

The result was 50.2 percent for no and 49.8 percent yes. This was despite consensus from polls, the media and even politicians campaigning for a no vote that yes would comfortably win.

Hard right wing former president Alvaro Uribe led the campaign against the deal, saying it gave too many concessions to Farc.

In particular it was to give Farc leaders immunity from jail for their role in killings and kidnappings. Yet Farc’s violence started as a response to the violence of Colombia’s state and its paramilitary allies. Uribe’s presidency was spent getting these right wingers immunity.

Turnout was low, at below 38 percent. This partly reflects a success by Uribe and others to argue that rejecting the deal would not mean a return to war but merely new negotiations.

The regions most affected by the conflict saw clear Yes votes.

A ceasefire remains in place. President Juan Manuel Santos and Farc leader Rodrigo “Timochenko” Londono have vowed to continue seeking an end to the decades-old conflict.

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