A referendum to keep the disabled out

Residents of a Hungarian town held a referendum to keep disabled people out of their community.

Ivett Körösi
Ivett Körösi Nepszava, Hungary
Source: Nepszava
A referendum to keep the disabled out
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Vote no, PixaBay

Why this story matters:

A few dozen disabled people, most of whom have Down syndrome, will soon call Tolnanémedi their new home -- even though some of the residents of the Western Hungarian town strongly opposed their resettlement there.

They went so far as to conduct a hate campaign and organize a referendum to prevent the local government from building new homes for the disabled. 

“Why do they have to be brought here? [...] Have you thought about how difficult it will be to sell a house here if the neighbour is disabled?” -- said one resident. 

As a Népszava journalist wrote in the article below, the campaign against the disabled in Tolnanémadi was as systematic as the one conducted by the Hungarian government against migrants. Hungarians seem to have learnt quickly that hate campaigns can work against any given -- mostly voiceless -- minority.

Although the Tolnanémedi referendum was not valid due to the low turnout, its mere existence is a worrying sign. It seems that agitating against a minority is considered more and more acceptable. And make no mistake: it was the government that started the trend.

Details from the story:

  • The population of Tolnanémedi is slightly more than 1,000. The referendum was held at the beginning of the month. 21% of the voters cast their votes. 88.4% voted against the resettlement of disabled in Tolnanémedi.
  • Many of those campaigning spread fake rumours, including that disabled people are violent.
  • The mayor of the town tried to counter the hate campaign: he emphasized that the new residents would be “full of love” and their resettlement would mean new jobs in the town.
  • Piroska Gyene, president of the Association for Persons with Intellectual Disability (ÉFOÉSZ), claims that experts warned the government in the past about the challenges of resettling people with disabilities to small towns or villages. In such environments, the chances of successful integration are much smaller.
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