Tue, Apr 10, 2018 - Page 7 News List

Hungarian PM could target Soros NGOs after poll win

Reuters, BUDAPEST

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban could use his sweeping new political mandate to extend Hungary’s crackdown on civil organisations that have been critical of his anti-immigration policies.

Orban’s right-wing nationalist projected himself as a savior of Hungary’s Christian culture against Muslim migration into Europe, an image that resonated with more than 2.5 million voters, especially in rural areas.

His Fidesz party won a two-thirds majority for the third time straight in Sunday’s election, meaning he will have the power to change constitutional laws.

The victory could embolden Orban to put more muscle into a Central European alliance against EU migration policies, working with other right-wing nationalists in Poland and Austria, and further expose cracks in the 28-country EU.

The European Commission said it was looking forward to working with Hungary on many challenges.

A spokesman for Fidesz yesterday said one of the first laws to be passed by the new parliament could be legislation that would empower the government to ban non-governmental organizations (NGO) that support migration and pose a “national security risk.”

The proposed legislation, dubbed “Stop Soros” by the government before the vote, is part of Orban’s strident anti-immigration campaign targeting Hungarian-born US financier George Soros, whose philanthropy aims to bolster liberal and open-border values.

A Fidesz spokesman yesterday told state radio: “After parliament is formed, at the end of April … in early May in the next parliament session we can start work … that is needed in the interest of the country, which could be the ‘Stop Soros’ legal package.”

One NGO said that the prospect of the bill is “terrifyingly serious.”

Among the measures floated before the election were mandatory registration of some NGOs that “support illegal immigration” and a 25 percent tax to be imposed on foreign donations that such NGOs collect, and activists could face restraining orders that preclude them from approaching the EU’s external borders in Hungary. The borders have been fortified since a migrant influx in 2015.

Last month, Orban told state radio that the government had information on activists being paid by Soros.

“We know by name who they are and how they work to transform Hungary into an immigrant country. That’s why we drafted and submitted the ‘Stop Soros’ bill which qualifies immigration as an issue of national security,” Orban said before the election.

Soros has rejected the government campaign against him as “distortions and lies” meant to create a false external enemy.

According to preliminary results with 99 percent of votes counted, Hungarian National Election Office data showed Fidesz winning 133 seats, a tight two-thirds majority in the 199-seat parliament. The nationalist Jobbik party won 26 seats, while the Hungarian Socialist Party was projected to come in third with 20 lawmakers.

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