A majority of Hungarians have rejected to vote in a referendum on closing the country’s borders to refugees, prompting the authorities to declare the results invalid.
According to the National Election Office's website, voter turnout was 43.7 percent in the Sunday referendum, which fell short of a 50-percent participation required to make the referendum valid under the country’s law.
Voters were asked whether they “want the European Union to be able to mandate the obligatory resettlement of non-Hungarian citizens into Hungary even without the approval of the National Assembly.”
However, almost 98 percent of those who participated supported Prime Minister Viktor Orban by voting against the admission of refugees into the country.
This prompted Orban to claim an “outstanding” victory, saying he will go to Brussels next week “to ensure that we should not be forced to accept in Hungary people we don’t want to live with.”
The European Union’s refugee-sharing quota plan, which calls for relocating 160,000 refugees across the bloc, would give Hungary a mandate to receive 1,294 asylum seekers.
Orban said the poll would encourage a wave of similar votes across the EU, which has been facing an unprecedented influx of refugees mostly fleeing conflict-ridden zones in North Africa and the Middle East.
Leader of the opposition Democratic Coalition, Ferenc Gyurcsany, rejected the prime minister’s claim, arguing that the low turnout indicated that most people did not support the government.
Another opposition party leader, Gabor Vona, called on Orban to take responsibility for the defeat and resign.
“It is Viktor Orban’s. In this situation, it would be democratic and European – because he dragged the country into this big trouble and caused these great problems-- if he took responsibility for this and resigned, like David Cameron in Great Britain after an unsuccessful referendum,” Vona said.
Hungary became a major transit country on the Western Balkan route for refugees who attempted to enter Germany and other EU states last year. More than 386,000 refugees managed to cross before the closure of borders in October 2015.
Orban adopted strict measures against the refugees, using razor wire fences and “border hunters” to prevent their entry.
Authorities have recently installed a razor-wire fence that runs the entire length of Hungary’s borders with Serbia and Croatia.
Refugees, who often cross the Mediterranean, try to go through Greece, Macedonia Serbia, Hungary, Croatia and Austria in an attempt to reach Germany or other wealthy European countries.