Party Strategies in the Hungarian Quota Referendum: Blaming the EU, Xenophobia and Populism

Political Competition
Edina Szöcsik
Universität Bern
Edina Szöcsik
Universität Bern

Since 2015, the issues of asylum and immigration are increasingly politicized in Central Eastern Europe where previously far right politics focused on ethnic minorities and law and order. Central Eastern European countries tend to be very sceptical about asylum and immigration irrespectively of the ideological colour of their governments. However, we know little about the role of these new issues in the party competition of Central and Eastern European countries. Therefore, this article analyses party strategies during the political campaign of the Hungarian referendum on a permanent relocation mechanism for refugees suggested by the European Commission carried out in October 2016. The referendum was launched by Fidesz to mobilize its voters and potentially to lure supporters away from Jobbik. At the same time, Jobbik aimed to moderate its image to broaden its electoral base for the coming elections in 2018. Therefore, I focus on the dynamics between Fidesz and Jobbik in their competition for the support of the right-wing voters and additionally explore whether leftist parties have managed to formulate an alternative position and discourse of the refugee crisis. More specifically, this study explores parties’ positions on the referendum, frames, perceptions of and potential solutions to the refugee crisis. The empirical analysis relies on a quantitative study of manually coded press releases of Fidesz, Jobbik and post-communist MSZP and articles of the three largest Hungarian online media portals over a two months period in the forefront of the referendum.
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