Hungary has a kind of “one party system,” and the fact that “one single party has put its people everywhere, from media through judiciary to the universities, means that it can control a lot of things in the elections,” head of a fact-finding delegation of the European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice, and Home Affairs (LIBE) told Euronews.
French Green MEP Gwendoline Delbos-Corfield made a reference to an unnamed Jobbik MP in her statement. She said, in spite of all this she hopes the upcoming elections will be fair, but pointing to the lack of access of opposition politicians to public media, she said that this was “doubtful.”
Public media’s bias has long been a matter of criticism. When Fidesz came to power, it gradually appointed their own people to head the public outlets. Similarly, the Media Authority only has Fidesz-delegated members.
In connection with the opposition primaries, for example, state wire service MTI‘s first report came out on the closing day of vote-counting, announcing Klára Dobrev’s victory. Meanwhile, public TV proved quicker by only one day, as on Thursday a pundit of one of the pro-Fidesz institutes commented on the historic pre-elections that it would be “ineffective,” while also praising the governing forces.
Delbos-Corfield: Government’s foundation scheme also matter of concern
In addition to public media access, MEPs reportedly raised concerns over the possible misuse of EU funds in Hungary through the recently introduced system of foundations too, Delbos-Corfield similarly claimed on Tuesday.
She said the issue of foundations created by the Orbán administration that transferred public assets to these private foundations where board members are often government allies, is of “great worry and concern.”
“It raises questions on how EU funds that will be transferred to these new structures will have a transparent reading,” Delbos-Corfield said at a press conference, pointing out that journalists will also have less access to data related to money being transferred to foundations, and that Orbán critics were worried that the foundation system is a way to cement Orbán’s power and resources even if there was a change in government after elections next year.
Fidesz: “Five crazy women” and “two normal men”
The LIBE delegation consisted of seven members, each of the EP’s groups could delegate one participant. Liberal Renew has named centrist-liberal opposition Momentum’s MEP Anna Donáth.
The government either trivialized or neglected the arrival and visit of the committee. Fidesz MEP Balázs Hidvéghi, for example, described the committee as “five crazy women” and “two normal men.” He was referring to the two radical-right members of the delegation (Spanish VOX’s Buxadé Villalba and Nicolas Bay from Marine le Pen’s French National Rally party) who hurried to defend the government, and labeled the delegation’s arrival as a “witch-hunt” against Hungary.
Meanwhile, the Justice Minister who met the delegation, similarly described the visit as a “political witch-hunt,” where “the indictment is the same as the verdict.” Judit Varga also accused LIBE of wanting to help the domestic opposition ahead of the 2022 elections. She then also insisted that Hungary was a “free and independent country over which LIBE has no power.”
During the three-day visit, the LIBE delegation met with several politicians, NGO members, judiciary figures, and journalists. Delbos-Corfield was also critical at the press conference held before their departure on Friday. Among other things, she said that several aspects of the rule of law have deteriorated in Hungary recently.
featured image: Delbos-Corfield arrives to the press conference in Budapest; illustration via Zoltán Máthé/MTI