Unprecedented election interference before the April 2022 parliamentary elections coupled with disturbing evidence pointing at foreign financing of opposition groups has prompted the Hungarian government to introduce new legislation meant to prevent such incidents from happening in the future. The scandal involving US and European groups financing the far left-to far right pre-election coalition in Hungary, as described in the intelligence services’ recent report, was a clear attempt to replace the country’s democratically elected government with one subservient to Washington and Brussels’ political goals.
Not only Hungary, but neighboring countries have also experienced the effect of left-wing NGOs and lobby-groups’ clandestine, sometimes brazenly open interference in the democratic process, from Ukraine to Poland, Moldova to Bulgaria. In Slovakia a week before the September parliamentary elections
things went as far as the U.S. Ambassador bragging about donating millions of dollars to the left-wing government in order to silence political opponents, and pressuring U.S. technology giants to shut down pages of politicians he deemed uncomfortable.
In response to these incidents, a Hungarian Office for the Protection of Sovereignty will be established, and candidates or officials of nominating organizations concerned who use foreign funding will be punished with prison sentences in local government and European Parliament elections. Among other things, this is contained in the package of laws on the protection of sovereignty submitted by Máté Kocsis, leader of the Fidesz parliamentary group. The government is also initiating a relevant amendment to the Fundamental Law.
In the introduction to the package, the parliamentary group leader recalled that the documents available in the reports of the National Information Center on foreign influence during the 2022 Hungarian parliamentary elections that clearly record which countries and foreign organizations have sent funding to Hungarian political groups. Among other cases, Péter Márki-Zay himself, the former prime ministerial candidate of the united opposition, has said that during the election campaign they received millions of dollars from the United States of America. It is known that more than four billion forints (USD 11 million) were received through the US organization Action for Democracy as well as a Swiss foundation to support the election campaign of the Hungarian left.
These funds were clearly used by the foreign donors to gain political influence and to influence the will of the Hungarian electorate, which not only amounts to political corruption, but also violates and endangers Hungary’s sovereignty.
The Hungarian Parliament. Photo: Pixabay
The Criminal Code will be amended to include a section on “illicitly influencing the will of the electorate”. A member, responsible person or official of a nominating organization under the Electoral Procedure Act or a candidate under the Electoral Procedure Act who uses prohibited foreign funding or, in order to circumvent this prohibition uses a financial advantage derived from an agreement disguising the origin of the prohibited foreign funding, will be punishable with imprisonment of up to three years – reads the bill.
It is important to note that this already applies to municipal and European Parliament elections. Under the draft law, organizations standing as a candidates in municipal elections may not use foreign funding, anonymous donations or assets derived from domestic legal entities or organizations without legal personality, as is the case with the current rules on party funding.
According to the explanatory memorandum of the law, which requires a two-thirds parliamentary support, the Office for the Protection of Sovereignty will be an independent body that will identify and investigate lobbying activities carried out in the interests of foreign bodies, organizations or individuals, regardless of their legal status, but will not cover the work of foreign missions or professional lobby organizations. It also identifies and investigates activities aimed at manipulating and disinformation and at influencing democratic debate and public and social decision-making processes. The Office’s task is to identify organizations whose foreign-funded activities are aimed at influencing or supporting elections or the will of voters.
Under the law, the Office for the Protection of Sovereignty, will have wide-ranging powers of investigation and, if it finds circumstances that warrant an offense, criminal prosecution or other official action, it informs the competent authorities. As an important part of the package, the National Information Center (intelligence services) will also assist the work of the Office for the Protection of Sovereignty, using information available and generated by the Office in response to news requests.
In this context, the Government has also initiated an amendment to the Basic Law, which will include a paragraph on the Office for the Protection of Sovereignty. The new paragraph of the Constitution reads as follows:
The protection of Hungary’s constitutional identity and Christian culture is the duty of all organs of the state. An independent body, established by a cardinal law, shall be responsible for the protection of the constitutional identity.”
The planned legislation is likely to be challenged by European courts and institutions, and is expected to be criticized by European mainstream media. However, past experience from Central and Eastern Europe shows that political parties carried into power by a sudden outburst of electoral euphoria generated by the influx of foreign sponsored positive publicity often end up creating unstable governments. The Hungarian draft legislation and constitutional amendment are aimed at preventing global superpowers and transnational groups from distorting the democratic will of the electorate and imposing their priorities over the needs of local communities.
Featured Photo: Fortepan, Hodosán Róza