There is nervousness in Fidesz, Hungary’s ruling party, as very low turnout in a referendum aimed at rejecting EU-wide “migrant quotas” for Hungary means that the vote may be invalid, and thus an embarrassing defeat for Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. Nationally, turnout at 3:00 PM local time was just 31%, according to statistics released by the National Election Office. The ruling party has until 7:00 PM–so less than four hours–to mobilise voters and somehow increase turnout to a minimum of 50% plus 1 vote, in order to salvage the shrill “no” (anti-migrant) campaign that has cost a staggering 10 billion forints ($45 million).
Turnout is lowest in Budapest, and it is perhaps not a coincidence that the left-centre opposition parties have been traditionally strongest in the Hungarian capital–most of which are supporting the boycott.
Just 27% of Budapest voters have voted so far, which is considerably lower than the national average and lower than any county in Hungary. The highest turnout is in the western counties, where Fidesz is traditionally the strongest, with Győr-Moson-Sopron at 35% and Vas at 36%.
But perhaps the biggest embarrassment for Fidesz is that turnout is worst in Budapest’s 8th District, which is governed by Fidesz Mayor Máté Kocsis, who also happens to be the ruling party’s Budapest president. Just 21% of 8th District voters have turned out to cast ballots thus far. Turnout is also very low in one of the last real Hungarian Socialist Party (MSZP) bastions in the country, namely Budapest’s 13th District, where turnout stands at 22%–with voters likely heeding calls from the left to boycott the referendum.
Polling stations close at 7:00 PM and results, as well as final turnout statistics are expected ninety minutes later. As a reminder, Hungarians are voting on the following referendum question, with Fidesz pushing hard for a “no” vote and for a valid referendum: “Do you want the European Union to be able to mandate the obligatory resettlement of non-Hungarian citizens into Hungary even without the approval of Parliament?”