Liberal and conservative pundits accuse the State Audit Office of Hungary of using double standards after it fined Jobbik for illicit campaign financing. A pro-government columnist thinks the office did its job and applied the law in a fair way. Hungarian press round-up by budapost.eu.
As we have reported, the State Audit Office of Hungary (ÁSZ) fined Jobbik for accepting illegal campaign financing. According to ÁSZ, Jobbik paid a preferential fee, well below market price, for the anti-government posters displayed on the giant billboards owned by former Fidesz treasurer Lajos Simicska. The Audit Office ruled that the application of the preferential rate amounted to illicit campaign financing, and thus Jobbik must return more than 331 million Forints to the Treasury.
In their first comments, Jobbik leaders accused the government of trying to silence their party, and said that the fine may prevent Jobbik from running in the April 2018 Parliamentary election. Later, the party announced the start of a campaign to collect donations to cover the fine, and raised 9 million Forints on the first day. Meanwhile, Jobbik has called for a rally “against Orbán’s dark dictatorship” at 5pm on 15 December, Friday. Several left-wing opposition parties said they would joint the anti-government demo, including green LMP, Együtt (Together) and Momentum.
Right-wing daily Magyar Idők’s Ferenc Kis dismisses accusations that the public authorities launched a politically motivated attack on Jobbik. The pro-government columnist writes that the State Audit Office just applied the existing regulations in a fair manner. Kis finds it appalling that Jobbik does not want to comply with the law and tries to foment political hysteria by accusing an important public agency of bias. In light of this, Kis has serious doubts about Jobbik’s claim that it would end corruption and restore the rule of law if it wins the next election. In an aside, Kis adds that Jobbik already gave up its political credo and core values when it joined the left-wing parties in lambasting the Orbán government. In conclusion, Kis expects many disappointed Jobbik supporters to vote for Fidesz.
On liberal news portal Index, Tamás Fábián and Dénes Csurgó take up the defence of Jobbik. They accuse the State Audit Office of applying double standards. The liberal commentators recall that in previous electoral campaigns, all the major parties spent more than allowed by the existing rules. Nonetheless, the State Audit Office did not investigate those cases.
In conservative weekly Heti Válasz, András Stumpf accuses the State Audit Office of heavy bias. The conservative pundit goes so far as to liken what he calls a politically motivated, selective application of the law to the practices of the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Stumpf notes that the State Audit Office remained silent when the government spent huge amounts of public money on advertising its achievements. Stumpf believes that Hungary is nonetheless far from being a dictatorship, and voters have the right to vote against the current governing parties in the April elections.