Opposition Parties Received Illegal Campaign Financing, Hungarian Audit Office Finds

  • 21 Feb 2024 6:54 AM
  • Hungary Matters
Opposition Parties Received Illegal Campaign Financing, Hungarian Audit Office Finds
The State Audit Office (ÁSZ) has established that parties in the opposition alliance before the 2020 parliamentary elections were involved in illegal campaign financing, ÁSZ head László Windisch said.

Presenting ÁSZ’s report on its investigation, Windisch said that the parties had received over 261 million forints (EUR 671,200) illegally from abroad via the Hungary Belongs to Everybody (MMM) movement. ÁSZ has ruled that the beneficiaries of the illegal funding, Democratic Coalition, Jobbik, Momentum, Socialist Party, and LMP should pay the entire sum shared equally to the central budget within 15 days.

Windisch added that national tax and customs authority NAV were investigating MMM in connection with a further 1.4 billion forints to “clarify if that sum had been used for campaign financing”.

ÁSZ’s report notes that the investigation had to be undertaken because accepting donations from abroad is illegal under Hungarian law. Windisch noted that Péter Márki-Zay, the opposition’s joint candidate for prime minister in the parliamentary elections, had said after the vote that MMM had set up an account that had been used to fund the operations of the opposition’s central campaign, including candidates.

The ÁSZ chief said this clearly constituted illegal campaign financing, and the audit office had reached out to MMM seeking clarification of its role in supporting the campaign.

ÁSZ’s investigation found that MMM and the opposition parties had set up a campaign council to coordinate their campaigns, and MMM had used funds from abroad to partially finance the parties’ billboards, leaflets and other campaign material, as well as joint events.

The parties accepted the support, thereby breaking regulations against illegal party financing. Windisch said the parties cannot appeal ÁSZ’s report.

The opposition parties protested ÁSZ’s findings, saying they suspected political reasons behind it. Momentum leader Anna Donáth said in a statement that this was the second fine ÁSZ had imposed this year ahead of the European Parliament and local elections.

“Their reasons are again ridiculous, and they are using show proceedings to try to stymie their opponents,” she said. Jobbik – Conservatives said the ÁSZ fine had been imposed by the government as “an act of revenge for the clemency scandal that erupted in recent weeks” with the aim of stymying their rivals in the upcoming elections.

The Socialist Party said they did not acknowledge ÁSZ’s findings and would take legal action, insisting that there were clearly political reasons behind the office’s decision.

Their statement added that if the opposition parties contested the elections together, “these kinds of attempts to undermine them could be unsuccessful”.

The Democratic Coalition said it would take “all possible legal steps” in connection with the fine. The party said it would sue the state treasury if it carried out ÁSZ’s decision.

Meanwhile, Judicial Orgs Decry Gyurcsány Statement 'Alleging Political Bias'

The heads of the National Office of the Judiciary (OBH) and the National Council of the Judiciary (OBT) on Tuesday sent a letter to Ferenc Gyurcsány, the leader of opposition Democratic Coalition (DK), rejecting what they said were statements alleging political bias in the judiciary.

In a Facebook post on Monday, Gyurcsány accused the judges ruling in procedures against lawmakers András Fekete-Győr of Momentum and László Varju of DK of bias, the letter said.

“Further, [Gyurcsány] suggested that the names of judges and prosecutors in procedures against politicians should be noted down,” the letter signed by György Senyei of OBH and Péter Szabó of OBT said.

“Procedures will not turn into political trials just because they are conducted against politicians,” it said, adding that Hungary’s Fundamental Law guaranteed equality before the law.

“We reject your statements suggesting political bias on the part of our fellow judges. While judges can be criticised they must not be threatened, nor should threats be hinted at,” the letter said.

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