Orbán loses key vote in parliament due to “treasonous” Jobbik

Lajos Kósa, Leader of the ruling Fidesz caucus in Parliament, called Jobbik leader Gábor Vona a “traitor,” after the far-right party blocked the Orbán government from amending Hungary’s Fundamental Law to prohibit the settlement of any foreign nationals in Hungary, without the prior approval of the national legislature. Fidesz is just two seats shy of a two-thirds super-majority in parliament, which is comprised of 199 MPs. And this is precisely the number of votes that the government was missing to pass the constitutional amendment. No opposition MP voted with the government.

The Tuesday vote in Parliament on the proposed constitutional amendment.

The Tuesday vote in Parliament on the proposed constitutional amendment.

Mr. Vona spoke with Mr. Orbán personally and demanded that the government rescind its program of selling residency bonds to foreigners as a condition of his support. Essentially, foreigners with money could buy access to the European Union and settle in Hungary with their families, for 300,000 euros. The program is an example of the sheer scale and scope of Fidesz corruption in Hungary. The government has outsourced the managing of these bonds to private sector agents with close ties to Fidesz and its business circles. Each agent earns up to 60,000 euros  as a “processing fee” for these transactions, as well as an additional 2% of each 300,000 euro bond, which stays in their account and never makes it to the Hungarian state. Hungarian taxpayers are then, after five years, obliged to pay back the full bond amount, along with accrued interest, to those who temporarily settled in Hungary. As such, the state loses money on this arrangement, while business interests with ties to Fidesz  profit.

Jobbik opposes the residency bonds for two reasons: (1) it claims that it endangers Hungary’s national security and increases the risk of terrorism and (2) the entire program is a hotbed of corruption. Fidesz promised to suspend the program, but Jobbik demanded concrete action before it would lend its support to the constitutional amendment.

Almost nothing was said in the news today about how the left-centre opposition did not support the government. This was to be expected. But there were some analysts who argued that Jobbik would, in the end, fold and either support the government’s amendment, or else allow for a couple of MPs to vote with Fidesz, in order to let it pass.

This is Mr. Orbán’s second major defeat on the question of migration in one month. First, the government referendum failed to meet the 50% plus 1 threshold of participation that none other than Fidesz and Mr. Orbán had set as the minimum for all valid plebiscites. Then today, the government failed to muster a 2/3 majority in parliament to amend the constitution in such a way as to theoretically make it impossible for non-citizens to settle in Hungary en masse without the approval of parliament.

This is the first time that the Orbán government loses a major vote in parliament in the past six and half years since they returned to power.

Still, the jury is out as to whether this second defeat will really weaken Mr. Orbán in the long-run and whether Jobbik’s stand today and the media coverage will help the party. Gábor Török, a political analyst with a finger on the pulse of the Hungarian right, seemed torn:

“The end result of a costly political campaign, which was a strain on the public budget is–for now–an invalid referendum and an unsuccessful attempt to amend the constitution…While the pro-government media is attacking Jobbik with great intensity, this is also a clear message to non-government supporters about who represents the real alternative. Exactly how much Jobbik loses due to the sustained attacks and how much it gains due to increased exposure remains to be seen in the coming months. But what is certain is that not appearing in the media and not being perceived as an alternative would not be an effective way tobuild support.”

The government is, indeed, bringing in the heavy weaponry against Jobbik, with almost nothing said about the centre-left opposition. Lajos Kósa, for instance, had the following to say after the failed vote:

“He who does not participate in the amending of the constitution is a traitor. Jobbik has now adopted a stigma that it will never be able to wash off of itself. Even Ferenc Gyurcsány was more honest than Gábor Vona–at least he openly declared that he would not oppose mandatory settlement quotas.”

Right before the vote, Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó also had some choice words for Jobbik: “Those who do not participate in amending the constitution do not want to defend Hungary.”

There is some speculation in Fidesz circles that Mr. Orbán will put the question of amending the constitution to another vote–by which point Jobbik will have had such a strong negative reaction from its own base, that it will be forced to retreat and vote with the government.

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