Voters in Hungary went to the polls today voting up or down on the question “Do you want the European Union to be able to order the mandatory settlement of non-Hungarian citizens in Hungary without parliament’s consent?

“No” won overwhelmingly as expected. However, it appears the vote will fail because turnout was less than 50 percent.

Will that matter?

Bloomberg reports Hungarian Refugee Vote Set to Fail as Orban Downplays Turnout.

Voter participation was just short of 40 percent at 5:30 p.m. in Budapest, an hour and a half before voting ended, according to the election commission’s website. The regulator’s chief, Andras Patyi, said the final tally was unlikely to reach the 50 percent needed to make the ballot binding, the state news service MTI reported. Pre-referendum polls showed an overwhelming majority for Orban’s preferred “no”.

Sensing that turnout may disappoint, Orban downplayed the significance of the referendum’s legal validity. As he cast his ballot on Sunday, the premier said his government would consider the result binding, regardless of turnout.

Orban became prime minister in 1998 and returned to power in a landslide victory in 2010. That election gave Orban a two-thirds majority in parliament, which allowed Fidesz to change the constitution, weaken checks and balances on executive power and build what Orban has called an “illiberal state” modeled on Russia and Turkey. Refugees are the latest target for the premier, who in recent years has positioned his government as fighting against the EU, global corporations, the International Monetary Fund, non-government organizations and Hungarian-born financier George Soros.

Orban hasn’t made clear what specific steps he’d take after the referendum. After a vitriolic campaign that suggested Hungarians can block EU refugee measures, Orban told TV2 on Thursday said that “sober and calm” dialogue would follow to change the trading bloc’s immigration policy.

An initial effort to relocate 160,000 of the more than a million arrivals last year still hasn’t been completed. Hungary has filed a lawsuit to annul EU legislation that requires the country to accept 1,294 refugees.

I would much preferred to have the vote be legally binding, but if Hungary refuses to take its share of the refugees, there is little the EU can do about it but complain.

Mike “Mish” Shedlock