Hungary's far right says PM should quit if migrant referendum invalid

September 12, 2016 11:25 AM EDT

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban attends a news conference in Budapest, Hungary, July 26, 2016. REUTERS/Lazslo Balogh

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By Marton Dunai

BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Hungary's radical nationalist Jobbik party told Prime Minister Viktor Orban on Monday he should resign if voters fail to turn out in sufficient numbers in a referendum next month to reject EU quotas for resettling refugees.

Jobbik leader Gabor Vona is trying to increase pressure on Orban in the run-up to the vote, which will be invalid unless at least 50 percent of the electorate, or around 4 million voters, take part.

"You hope to score political points with this game of hazard which could end up hurting the entire country," Vona told Orban in parliament. "If the October 2 referendum is invalid, you have to resign because you led Hungary into a battle you lost."

He said the referendum would backfire on Hungary if it failed: "We will give Brussels a trump card as our weapon backfires: Hungarians will not have legally rejected the quotas."

Orban has irked his European Union partners with his tough rhetoric on migrants and by building a razor wire fence along Hungary's southern border to keep them out. He has mounted a vigorous campaign for Hungarians to reject future EU quotas stipulating how many refugees each country should take.

He ignored the resignation demand, saying the vote was necessary to win political support in Hungary's battles against the EU.

"We need a common basis... to challenge Brussels in conflicts that will indeed have grave legal ramifications," he said. "Without the people, that battle cannot be won. We need them, we need to involve them, and in a democracy a referendum is the only way to do that."

Orban faces elections in 2018 and Jobbik will be his number one challenger, based on current poll standings. But his Fidesz party enjoys a commanding lead, which has widened in the course of the migration crisis.

Vona accused Fidesz of trying to divert attention from endemic corruption he called "corruption terrorism". Orban rejected this, telling Vona to file charges in the courts if he knew of specific cases.

(Reporting by Marton Dunai; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)

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