Why Does Orbán Want a Pseudo-Referendum on Ukraine's EU Accession?

Thursday, 16 November 2023

Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has surprised once again with an unexpected move. The Hungarian government is organising another "national consultation" – a survey that Orbán will later present on the European stage as an equivalent to a referendum (it is not).

There are ample reasons to predict with certainty that Orbán's government will report that nearly 100% of Hungarians are against Ukraine's accession.

The questions of the pseudo-referendum are deliberately formulated in a manipulative way.

Read more in the article by Sergiy Sydorenko, European Pravda's editor – "97% Will Say No to Ukraine’s EU Membership": Why Will We Lose Hungarian 'Referendum' and What Will It Change.

Hungarian officials have been discussing the idea of the Orbán government to conduct another pseudo-referendum, the so-called "national consultation," since at least October. However, it became known that this "signature tool" of Orbán would be directed against Ukraine only on Sunday when the "consultation" was officially announced by the State Secretary of the Hungarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Tamás Menczer.

The exact wording of the questions will be published by the government in the coming days. Based on previous statements by Hungarian officials, it will sound something like this:

"Do you agree that Ukraine at war becomes a full EU member and brings the war to your doorstep?"

Two answer options: "Yes" or "No."

It is not difficult to imagine that the average Hungarian voter will see it as voting on the war in their country. The answer can only be negative.

To further cement attitudes towards Ukraine, the government plans to include in the ballot traditional myths of Hungarian propaganda, claiming that Ukrainians oppress Hungarians in Transcarpathia and deprived the Hungarian community of their rights. It is unclear whether this will be presented as a separate "rhetorical" question in Orbán's survey or if these ideas will be incorporated into the wording of the membership question.

Additionally, the Hungarian ruling party is discussing the possibility of separately asking citizens about the blockade on Ukrainian grain, as reported by Telex. It is easy to imagine the wording of a question on this topic.

Finally, Hungarians will be separately asked about changes in taxes and interest rates, according to government spokesperson Alexandra Szentkirályi. It is also related to Ukraine. The government claims that Brussels allegedly wants to force Budapest to raise taxes and interest rates for Hungarians due to the war in Ukraine. Citizens will be asked whether they agree with this.

Other questions will be included in the questionnaire sent to voters.

The crucial point is that this survey is explicitly anti-Ukrainian and aims to intensify hostility towards Ukraine in Hungarian society.

The overwhelming majority of Hungarians understand that this is a pseudo-referendum and will discard the ballots.

A significant portion of those willing to cast their votes are pensioners, for whom there is an additional incentive to vote.

However, even with the available figures, Orbán has enough to go to Brussels and lie about popular support. Hungarian officials can use these figures in conversations with Western media or politicians, and especially in internal Hungarian propaganda.

But what real impact will this have on Brussels?

Fortunately, minimal.

Orbán and his "referendum" can generate the entrenched hostile attitude of Hungarians towards Ukraine that will remain part of Hungarian society.

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