Do you also think that gender reassignment should be promoted among minor children? And: do you also think that sex reassignment treatments should be available for minor children? These are two of the five questions that the Hungarians will be presented with in the referendum. Orbán announced it via social media.
The referendum follows a law that saw the light of day last June. Among other things, the law prohibits young people from being exposed to homosexuality. Information about the LGBTI community is also not allowed in schools.
There was a fierce reaction from the European Union. Several leaders signed a statement condemning the law. Prime Minister Rutte said that ‘Hungary has no business in the European Union’. He even said tears were shed in an EU debate, he said in this video:
Orbán is now coming with a referendum. A response from the European Union will probably not be forthcoming this time either. Orbán will undoubtedly expect a reaction, but why is he doing this?
Diverting attention from scandals
There are several reasons. That is what Michiel Luining, researcher European Law in Poland and Hungary and Kati Piri, PvdA member of parliament and born Hungarian, tell RTL Nieuws. First of all, it is intended to divert attention from another scandal.
Namely, the scandal involving Pegasus software. According to a Hungarian research platform, the authorities use the software to intercept journalists, among other things. The software is said to have been found on more than 300 Hungarian telephones.
But there has been no response from the government to the scandal. At least, announcing a referendum on a completely different subject seems to be the response. “Orbán wants to strengthen the cultural struggle by means of the referendum. And thereby divert attention from the scandal to which he should actually respond,” says Luining.
Opposition is getting stronger
Another reason: next year’s elections. Orbán has been prime minister of Hungary for ten years in a row. He would like to stick with it for another four years, but whether that is given to him remains to be seen. And that is mainly because of the opposition.
Because the opposition parties are united this time. One block they want to defeat Orbán with. “The six parties come together with one opponent,” says Piri. “It ensures that it is neck-and-neck in the polls.”
And so Orbán must come up with a tactic to hit the opposition. And that is, right, the anti-gay law. “He has managed to break up the opposition with that. Because a right-wing party already voted with Orbán. He makes sure he doesn’t talk about the state of health care or about education or corruption. Instead, he talks about migration and family values.”
‘The real European conservatives’
Finally, Orbán’s relationship with the European Union. Because it also explains why he does what he does. “In the EU he stands for conservative, Christian Europe. With the referendum he wants to show that he belongs to the real European conservatives,” says Luining.
“He also wants this theatre. He wants the fight. In this way he can show that he stands up for Hungarian interests. It is not even necessarily about the content. If the EU hits back, he can always adjust slightly to the law, so that the EU says nothing more about it and he can claim victory over Europe in Hungary.”
control the EU
But if the EU and Orbán don’t like each other, why doesn’t Hungary itself leave the EU? It’s like this: “The Hungarians are pro-EU,” says Luining. “They only want to bend the EU to their will. They want to create space to do their thing nationally.” Moreover, Hungary benefits from the internal market and a lot of EU subsidy money goes to the Hungarians.
The only question is whether the current prime minister can remain in that position for long at all. Because as said, winning the elections next year is still a difficult task. Member of Parliament Kati Piri: “At the beginning, many people voted for Orbán because of the corruption of the previous socialist government.”
Opposition wins local elections
“In the meantime, his support is still strong in rural areas, where people can receive no other news than government propaganda and where people are more conservative anyway. But you saw in the previous local elections that the joint opposition in many major cities, including the capital Budapest, won the election. So there is real hope that this can happen again in the national elections next year.”