Bombing in Budapest incites fear of terror ahead of migrant referendum

Bombing in Budapest incites fear of terror ahead of migrant referendum
Orban has upped his efforts to link refugees to terror in the run up to the referendum
By bne IntelliNews September 25, 2016

Two Hungarian police officers were seriously injured in the detonation of a home-made bomb in the centre of Budapest on the night of September 24.

Confusion reigned in the immediate aftermath the blast. Reports suggested at first that it was a gas explosion. Other reports – as well as many on social media – pointed to the possibility of a terrorist attack.

It is unclear whether the explosion has links to terrorism. However, as long as links to terrorism are not explicitly ruled out by the police, the bomb attack stands to aid the efforts of the ruling Fidesz party to push people into voting in its upcoming referendum on the EU’s migrant quota system. The government has run a campaign attempting to explicitly link refugees to terror in recent weeks.

Police said in a press conference held on September 25 that they are investigating seven possible theories about the motivation behind the incident, but did not answer journalists’ questions as to whether they are investigating links to terrorism. Police gave a description of the suspect – a 20-25-year-old man in jeans and hat – but did not give details regarding his nationality.

Karoly Papp, chief inspector of the Hungarian police, described the incident as a criminal case of attempted homicide. He said that the attack was clearly directed at the police officers, a policeman and a policewoman who regularly patrol the area where the bomb exploded.

"We consider this attack occurred against the entire Hungarian police. Someone tried to execute my officers," Papp said according to MTI, adding that as the result of the blast, Hungary has strengthened its borders and increased security at airports.

The explosion came as Budapest is busy running a virulent campaign demonising refugees and linking them to terrorism ahead of a national referendum on the EU’s migrant quota system on October 2. The poll is widely viewed as a tool to maintain support for the populist Fidesz government, with Brussels having admitted the quota system is all but dead.

While that has helped ensure the result of the referendum - which asks if Hungarians want to allow the EU to resettle migrants in the country without the approval of the government - will be a foregone conclusion, the vote needs a turnout of 50% of voters to be valid. Just one of five such national polls have reached that turnout since 1990.

Orban has made it clear that he will seek to use a successful referendum result to push a campaign to raise his profile as a European heavyweight leading efforts to "reform" the EU.