Millions of Hungarian voters will decide on Sunday (2 October) whether to accept or reject the European Union's mandatory migrant quota plan for the country allowing right-wing Prime Minister Viktor Orban to flex his muscle against Brussels. A majority of the eight million eligible voters are widely expected to reject the scheme.
However, Orban could still face an embarrassment in the referendum if the voter-turnout is less than 50% making the polls invalid. The government's position has remained aggressive throughout the campaign with "no" signs being prominently sighted across the country with one banner reading: "Did you know that the Paris terror attacks were carried out by migrants?"
Under the EU-wide proposal – mostly led by Germany to ease pressure on countries such as Greece and Italy – to resettle 160,000 asylum seekers, Hungary, which was one of the key transit routes to other European countries, would require to take in close to 1,300 of them. The country has already blocked its border with Serbia and Croatia and has stepped up border patrols to stop refugees from entering. Hungary has said that as many as 18,000 people have illegally crossed into the country.
Voters will be asked: "Do you want the European Union to be able to mandate the obligatory resettlement of non-Hungarian citizens into Hungary even without the approval of the National Assembly?" They will be given two options to vote "yes" or "no".
Polling stations opened at 6am local time (4am GMT) and will close at 7pm. Results are expected to emerge shortly after the voting ends.
Orban, who had openly declared that Muslim asylum seekers would destroy the Hungarian Christian identity and culture, wrote in a local daily ahead of the vote: "We can send a message to each European... telling them that it depends on us, European citizens, to bring the EU back to reason, with common effort, or let it disintegrate." Orban's stubborn stance against accepting refugees has been strongly criticised by human rights groups.
Judit Hegyi, a Budapest resident, told Reuters: "We must preserve our Hungarian national character here in the middle of Europe and all the other European states should also preserve their national characters."