Hungary’s parliament on Tuesday (8 November) narrowly rejected a plan by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán to ban the resettlement of migrants in the country, a setback for the maverick leader that could weaken him in his fight against EU migration policies.
The proposed constitutional amendment won 131 votes in the 199-seat parliament, just short of the necessary two-thirds majority of 133. Opposition parties, including the far-right Jobbik, had boycotted the vote.
Orbán had said the amendment was needed to honour an October referendum, in which more than 3 million Hungarians, an overwhelming majority of those who voted, rejected EU migrant quotas.
He said that even though the referendum was not legally binding because of low turnout, it gave him a strong political mandate to reject the imposition by Brussels of quotas stipulating how many migrants Hungary must accept.
Orbán’s determination to keep out migrants has angered his fellow leaders and complicated their task as the EU struggles to cope with an influx of about 1.4 million people since the start of 2015, many fleeing conflicts like the war in Syria.
Last year Hungary was the key entry point into the EU’s border-free Schengen zone until Orbán erected a razor-wire border fence to stop the flow.
“This vote today is a temporary fiasco (for Orbán), similarly to the referendum which was invalid,” said Robert Laszlo, a political analyst at think tank Political Capital.
Laszlo said at home, the failure of the amendment was unlikely to weaken Orbán, whose Fidesz party has a strong lead in opinion polls ahead of 2018 elections.
“In Brussels, he will not be able to sell this as a success, there his positions will weaken,” he added.
Hungarian radical nationalist party Jobbik said it would back Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s law to ban the resettlement of migrants as soon as the government abolishes a residency bond programme for foreigners.
Jobbik said ahead of the vote that it would not back the amendment to the constitution unless Orbán abolished the residency bond scheme which was introduced three years ago.
Jobbik have long called the residency bonds, generally sold via shady offshore companies, a “dirty business” and a national security risk that could be exploited even by Islamic State jihadists.