Hungary Citizenship Plan Reaches 1 Million Mark in Boost for OrbanBy
Ethnic Hungarians abroad can apply for citizenship since 2011
Orban’s Fidesz party won 95% of new citizens’ vote in 2014
Hungary’s program to extend citizenship to ethnic kin who are nationals of other countries reached the 1 million mark, boosting Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s already strong chances for re-election next year.
The millionth citizenship under the program, one of the first laws approved by parliament after Orban returned to power in 2010, was awarded to a 36-year-old ethnic Hungarian farmer in Serbia, President Janos Ader said at a ceremony in Budapest over the weekend that Orban also attended.
Ethnic Hungarians living abroad, most of them in areas of neighboring countries that were cut off from Hungary after World War I, overwhelmingly backed Orban in the 2014 parliamentary elections, when more than 95 percent of almost 130,000 of those votes were for the premier’s Fidesz party. Fidesz has a wide lead in all opinion polls over a fragmented opposition ahead of elections next year, where Orban is looking to further consolidate the first “illiberal state” in the European Union, modeled on Russia and Turkey. Orban has said he expects elections to take place in April.
Unlike hundreds of thousands of Hungarians who’ve moved West, ethnic kin living abroad who’ve received citizenship can cast ballots by mail, a recurring criticism for opposition parties who say the rule is discriminatory. At the same time, ethnic kin living abroad get only one vote -- for party list -- versus two votes for others who also get to pick the candidate for their electoral district to represent them in parliament.
In 2014, 8.2 million Hungarians were eligible to vote, including almost 194,000 ethnic Hungarians living abroad, according to the website of the National Election Office.