BUDAPEST: Hungary’s populist prime minister, Viktor Orban, said on Sunday that the European Union cannot force Hungary to accept migrants on its soil, after low voter turnout voided his referendum aimed at rejecting a contested quota plan.
“Brussels cannot force its will on Hungary,” the defiant firebrand leader told his supporters in Budapest.
Although a whopping 99.8 percent of those who voted supported his bid to reject the proposal, turnout was just 44 percent, falling short of a 50-percent threshold.
Among the ballots cast only 39 percent were actually valid, the National Election Committee said as it declared the referendum void after counting the ballots on Sunday evening.
But Orban vowed there would be “legal consequences” nonetheless, as he sought to downplay the significance of the low turnout.
“Brussels or Budapest, that was the question, and the people said Budapest,” he said.
“I will propose to change the constitution (which) shall reflect the will of the people. We will make Brussels understand that it cannot ignore the will of Hungarian voters.”
Opposition figures earlier warned that any legal amendment based on the referendum result would violate the constitution.
“It looks like (Orban) wants to continue his fight with the EU on its migration policy, and the constitutional amendment is his way of doing that as it might trigger legal fights” with Brussels, analyst Bulcsu Hunyadi told Agence France-Presse.