Nobody in Miskolc can say with certainty that they have ever seen a migrant or a refugee in the city. A few residents think they might have seen one or two people back in 2015 but cannot be sure. Others say their friends have seen migrants in the streets but admit they have not seen any themselves. And yet, in this city of 160,000 inhabitants in north-east Hungary, a fierce election campaign is under way in which there is one overriding issue being discussed ahead of the vote on 8 April. It is not the recent series of corruption scandals involving government officials and vast sums of money. Nor is it the depressing state of local healthcare or low wages. It is migration. The tone for the election in Miskolc – as across the country – has been set by Hungary’s prime minister, Viktor Orbán, who is seeking to win a third consecutive term on a far-right platform of sealing Hungary’s borders to migrants.
If Miskolc is not to be a place of “ghettos and no-go zones”, said Orbán on a campaign visit to the city earlier this month, it is necessary to vote for his party, Fidesz.
“There are two paths ahead for Hungary to choose from,” said Orbán. “We will either have a national government, in which case we will not become an immigrant country, or the people of George Soros form a government and Hungary will become an immigrant country.”
Orbán has tried to portray opposition parties as puppets of Soros, the Hungarian-born American financier and philanthropist who has spent billions on developing civil society in post-communist countries.