On October 2, 2016 Hungary held the referendum on the plan of the European Union to relocate refugees in Europe using quotas. The referendum was perceived to be part of Victor Orbán’s European powerplay, since Orbán asked voters a question to which he already knew the answer. The question of the national referendum was following: Do you agree that the European Union should have the power to impose the compulsory settlement of non-Hungarian citizens in Hungary without the consent of the National Assembly of Hungary? 

According to preliminary results, 98 percent of the Hungarian voters rejected the EU’s quota system for resettling migrants. However, the landslide results were undercut slightly by voter turnout of 43.35 percent — short of the 50 percent-plus-one-vote threshold for the results to be legally “valid. This did not stop Orbán to claim this 98 percent rejection the most decisive referendum margin since Vladimir Putin’s triumph in Crimea in March 2014.

In this era of referendums, he wants to show he can use referendums for his own purpose; he is not afraid to consult the voters,” said Milan Nič, head of the Europe program at GLOBSEC Policy Institute. “If we have the politics of anger and identity politics as the new wild horse in European politics, he is showing he can jump on the wild horse and ride it,” Nič said. “Yes, there is a populist backlash and look, I not only survived it, I’m riding it.”

Read the full article by David M. Herszenhorn at POLITICO: Hungary sends EU a pointed pro-Orbán message