Many Hungarians have spoiled their ballots in symbolic fashion to protest against a government-called referendum aimed at denying more than 1,000 refugees a new home.
Millions voted yesterday in a national poll that saw the vast majority rally against EU-imposed migrant quotas, but not in high enough numbers to make the result legally-binding.
To protest against the government’s treatment of asylum seekers but not have their vote contribute to the total number of valid ballots, hence rendering the result invalid, many creatively annotated their slip.
Pictures of the wounded Syrian boy whose pictures moved people across the world, funny notes, rips, and even barbed wire were used to defy prime minister Viktor Orban. They were posted by Hungarian journalist Szabolcs Panyi.
Many others were angry that the failed referendum had cost tens of millions of pounds - enough to support the refugees it was held to bar from entering Hungary.
Sky News put the total sum spent by the government at £30m in its failed bid to convince voters to reject taking in 1,294 asylum seekers. Hungary’s opposition party claimed the figure was higher - at £32m.
It led to Ryan Heath, a reporter at Politico, pointing out Orban could have footed the bill for each of the migrants to train, study or work in the public sector for much the same cost.
That would assume a cost of £34m spent urging Hungarians to vote against the EU plan to solve the migrant crisis,.
Lydia Gall, a Balkans and Eastern Europe researcher at Human Rights Watch, also accused the Hungarian prime minister of squandering taxpayers’ money on a “useless exercise”.
While social affairs analysis website ‘Hungarian Spectrum’ went further, saying: “The greatest calamity of course is not the money spent but the damage done to the soul of the Hungarian people.”
Despite there only being a 43% turnout, prime minister Orban claimed the referendum was a “sweeping victory”.
“We can be proud that we are the first and so far only member state of the European Union” to hold such a referendum, he told supporters, according to the Associated Press. “Hungarians were able to give their direct opinions on the issue of immigration.”
Orban, who did not mention at all that the referendum was officially invalid, said he would present a proposal to amend the Constitution reflecting people’s intentions.
Nearly 4 percent of the votes were spoiled - twice as many as in any of the other four referenda held since 1997 - driving down the number of valid votes to 40.1 percent.