By PABLO GORONDI
BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) - The Hungarian government's recently ended campaign against the influence of Hungarian-American financier George Soros is the "most successful" of its "national consultations" asking voters for their opinions on different issues, the government spokesman said Tuesday.
Zoltan Kovacs said that by Dec. 1, a record 2.33 million people had returned questionnaires asking whether they agreed with Soros' alleged positions supporting migration into Hungary and Europe. Opposition parties say the government's claim that 28 percent of voters participated is exaggerated, but Kovacs said the questionnaires' tally would be made public after completion.
"The most successful national consultation of all time concluded last week," Kovacs said. "In light of the (participation) figures, we can say that this is a national issue."
Soros says the questionnaire's statements contain "distortions or outright lies" of his views. He has recently released videos - in Hungarian with English subtitles - detailing his views on Hungary, migration and his differences with Hungary's staunchly anti-immigration prime minister, Viktor Orban.
A political analyst said it was hard to determine whether Soros' response to the campaign - the government's second against him this year - would add fuel to the fire and confirm Orban's claims that Soros is "attacking" Hungary by supporting migration, or dull the edge of the confrontation by presenting what Soros has done for Hungary and democracy through his foundations.
Soros and his organizations "are advocating for the concept of an open society not just in Hungary but in all societies where they are present," said Zoltan Novak, from the Budapest-based Center For Fair Political Analysis. "This type of open society and all the democratic attributes attached to it - which these organizations want to strengthen - are in opposition to the government's intentions."
The anti-Soros campaign has also included ads against him in print and broadcast media and on hundreds of billboards set up across the country. The government this year supported laws targeting the Soros-founded Central European University in Budapest and dozens of non-governmental organizations it says are part of the "Soros network."
Orban says large-scale immigration, especially by Muslims, will erode Europe's Christian foundations and he wants to "keep Hungary Hungarian."
Without a strong domestic opposition, Orban has named Soros and the European Union leadership in Brussels as his main adversaries before April's parliamentary election and says NGOs supported by Soros will act like political parties during the electoral campaign.
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