A filibuster in Hungary?

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October 5, 2016 by AK

If my calculations are correct, 37.4% of the eligible voters voted for Brexit in June and 39.7% of the eligible voters voted for Orbán’s immigration proposal last Sunday.

However, the turnout for the Brexit referendum was 72%, with 52% voting “for,” while the turnout for Hungary’s referendum was 43%, with 98% voting “for.” In the latter case, the vote is invalid because fewer than 50% of the eligible voters took part.

Without pretending to know much about Hungarian politics, I would say it looks like a filibuster on a national scale. Most of the Hungarians opposed to Orbán’s anti-refugee line stayed away from the polls, knowing that it would have been near-impossible to win and preferring a constitutionally invalid result with a near-100% majority to a valid outcome with, say, a 55% or 60% majority.

There was a time in post-Soviet Russia when 50% was the minimum turnout for a presidential election to be valid. The threshold for Duma elections was 25%. However, the Duma abolished these minimums in 2006, along with the “against all candidates” option on the ballots. The latter measure was opposed by 46% of the public and favored by 42%: the idea that protest voting should always be an option was rather popular. Referenda still require a 50% turnout but only regional ones have been held since 1995.


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