The Orbán-government has created more than a million new Hungarian citizens who are expected to vote for him in April.
The Orbán-government has created more than a million new Hungarian citizens, but not from immigrants. It was through an easy citizenship scheme for ethnic Hungarians living in neighboring countries. (Not to be confused with the residency bond program that was designed to give easy access to the EU to foreign oligarchs and wanted criminals at a great cost to the Hungarian taxpayer.)
The topic of citizenship to ethnic Hungarians abroad is hotly debated. There are millions of ethnic Hungarians outside of Hungary born in Serbia, Romania, Slovakia and Ukraine, whose families ended up outside of the borders after the Versailles Treaty in 1920. The modification of borders created decades of resentment between these countries, spilling over into today’s politics. Nationalist politicians such as Orbán simply love stoking ethnic tension – and no amount of Schengen or EU can stop them from using ethnic resentment to fuel their own, petty popularity.
When the previous government took a stand against giving nationality to ethnic Hungarians (broadly defined), Fidesz painted them as murderers and enemies of the nation. Giving citizenship to ethnic Hungarians in Romania, Serbia, Ukraine and Slovakia has been a great rallying cry and close to the heart of every nationalist. (Curiously, they wouldn’t find it as satisfying if these countries could just join the EU and render borders and citizenship problems moot – as seen with the case of Romania and Slovakia.)
Public opinion is currently supportive of giving citizenship to ethnic Hungarians abroad – but not to give them voting rights. But that may not be the aim for many of them, especially in non-EU countries. EU citizenship is a hot commodity in Serbia and Ukraine, and pursuing it became the trade for many petty bureaucrats. And as of December 2017, PM Orbán shook hands with the millionth such new citizen.
The question on everyone’s mind: how will the one million extra voters influence the elections.
Because they can vote. They don’t have to move to Hungary or even plan to do so, but they register to vote on April 8 in record numbers. And they are expected to vote for their benefactor, protector and ethnic father of the nation, Viktor Orbán. And the government does everything in its power to make it easier for them.
The reason the Hungarian government cannot simply outlaw voting rights for those who don’t live and pay taxes in Hungary anymore is that it would revoke the voting rights of these ethnic Hungarians – widely expected to vote for Orbán. So expats can keep their votes for now. See how many will spend a day travelling just to vote on April 8.
Fidesz started the scheme when they came back into power in 2010. By 2014, over 130 thousand new Hungarians voted in the elections, 95% of them for Fidesz. By February, 343 thousand Hungarians who live abroad have registered to vote. Most of them from the neighboring countries, not expats living and working in the west. There are 7.9 million voting age citizens within the borders.