A foundation led by prominent critics of the Hungarian government and conservative forces in general allegedly helped the Hungarian opposition’s electoral campaign with significant funds from the United States. According to a Hungarian government politician, this could have amounted to “abusing the law.”
Péter Márki-Zay, the mayor of Hódmezővásárhely (southeast Hungary), and former prime ministerial candidate of the joint opposition coalition in the parliamentary elections in April, made some remarks about his campaign funding and US connections, raising eyebrows in the Hungarian media and public discourse.
During Magyar Hang’s podcast last week, Márki-Zay said that he had only recently received the “42,000-rows-long” account of the campaign budget – which he intends to publish in its entirety soon – and it shows that as recently as in July of this year, two months after the elections, his campaign received several million HUF “from America.” He noted that he did not think billionaire George Soros was among the donors, the donations most probably coming from “Americans and Hungarians living in America.”
The politician said that his Everybody’s Hungary Movement (MMM – Mindenki Magyarországa Mozgalom) used the above-mentioned funds to pay for this year’s campaign bills. According to Márki-Zay, around one hundred million HUF (approx. 250,000 EUR) still remains in the funds, which he intends to transfer to the bank account of his movement.
Magyar Nemzet recalled that some of Márki-Zay’s former allies raised questions about the campaign funding and accused the politician’s movement of simply keeping the “left-over” money. Márki-Zay reacted by saying that they had used all the donations in an attempt to “topple” Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and they would continue to do so.
Márki-Zay claimed that the donations came from a US foundation called Action for Democracy which was created in February 2022, just before the Hungarian elections.
Today, Action for Democracy is not focused exclusively on Hungary. According to its website, the foundation’s “key battleground states are places in the world where we think democracy is most threatened and where elections are to take place within the next year that will determine the fate of those democracies.” They list Italy, Brazil, Hungary, Poland, and Turkey. In all these countries national conservative parties are either in power, or – in Italy’s case – are very likely to win the upcoming elections.
The foundation’s advisory council is chaired by Hungarian-born American writer and activist for progressive causes Kati Marton, and its members are:
- British historian Timothy Garton Ash
- American historian Anne Applebaum
- Former NATO Supreme Allied Commander General Wesley K. Clark
- American political scientist Francis Fukuyama
- Former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein
- Hungarian-born American political scientist Charles Gati
- Former US Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia (under the Obama administration) Evelyn Farkas,
- Former Clinton-speechwriter Robert Boorstin
- Former US Ambassador to Hungary (under the Obama administration) Eleni Kounalakis
- American historian Timothy Snyder
- Former British Foreign Secretary David Milliband
- Mayor of Warsaw Rafal Trzakowski
- Hong Kong activist Simon Cheng.
The president of the foundation is Dávid Korányi, who was an advisor to former Hungarian PM Gordon Bajnai and is giving advice to Gergely Karácsony, the green Mayor of Budapest, while living in New York City.
Action for Democracy told Magyar Hang that contrary to what Márki-Zay said in the podcast, the foundation did not give campaign funding to anyone- they supported the politician’s MMM movement “as a civil organization.” The foundation claimed that they had an “intense online fundraiser” and received money for this cause from thousands of people whose names they do not want to publish in order to protect their privacy. There is – as of August 30 – a link to a fundraiser called #HungarianSpring on their website, but it does not work anymore.
István Hollik, the Communications Director of the ruling Fidesz party, pointed out to Magyar Nemzet that it is illegal in Hungary for a party to receive funding from abroad. According to him, Márki-Zay and his team “abused the law,” as they received the funding to the account of their association. Hollik said that Action for Democracy “has thousands of ties” to George Soros. The Fidesz-politician accused Márki-Zay of lying to his voters and raised the question: “What did the donors ask for in exchange?”
Featured photo via Facebook/Márki-Zay Péter