“[Minister of the PM’s Cabinet Office] Antal Rogán has decided to join the election campaign of Klára Dobrev,” Péter Márki-Zay, one of the opposition’s prime ministerial candidates of the primary elections, said in a Facebook video on Wednesday. The politician says it is clear that the media empire of ruling Fidesz is trying to portray his rival, DK candidate Klára Dobrev, in the most positive light possible, while at the same time trying to discredit him. All this, he says, is being done in order to help the one candidate to lead the opposition who can surely be defeated by the ruling party in next year’s elections.
In the last few days, it seems that some in the pro-government press have decided to start throwing everything they have at opposition prime ministerial candidate Péter Márki-Zay, while they are pulling their punches when it comes to his rival, Klára Dobrev.
One of the first signs of this was a recent article by arguably the most important newspaper of the governing party, Magyar Nemzet. In a leading article, the paper listed Klára Dobrev’s supporters from the opposition spectrum, painting an almost favorable picture of the candidate, while only negative opinions of Márki-Zay were quoted. The most surprising thing about the article was that it lacked any negative connotations, even though most of the quotes came from those in Hungarian politics against whom Fidesz voters usually- to put it mildly- have a strong antipathy for. The article did not even mention that Klára Dobrev is the wife of former Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány– an important detail that was almost never missing from any of the paper’s articles about the Democratic Coalition politician.
After this, the free daily newspaper, Pesti Hírlap, came down hard on Péter Márki-Zay in several issues. (According to press reports, a friend of Antal Rogán, the minister of the PM’s Cabinet Office, recently acquired 50% of the stakes in the newspaper).
On Monday, the paper, which has positioned itself as mildly government-critical, put on its front page a quote from Péter Márki-Zay that children can be hit with an open hand, and on Wednesday it again put on its front page a quote from the mayor of Hódmezővásárhely, saying that Márki-Zay is against abortion and divorce.
Although both sentences were uttered by Márki-Zay, for the sake of fairness, it should be added that at least in the latter case, they are taken completely out of context.
The 2019 Márki-Zay quote in its entirety reads: “Child abuse is unacceptable to me, as is divorce and abortion. In all three cases, however, it is true that the legislation does not have to follow my principles, and in all three cases I accept that social norms do not coincide with my personal convictions.”
Most recently, an author of another pro-government site, Pesti Srácok, directly encouraged manipulating the outcome of the opposition primaries. “To sum up, I urge all governing party supporters to go out and vote in the second round of the primaries and cast their ballot for Klára Dobrev,” wrote Tamás Varga-Bíró at the end of his opinion piece on Márki-Zay.
The mayor of Hódmezővásárhely responded to the attacks of the Fidesz media in a Facebook video on Monday.
“Antal Rogán has decided to join the election campaign of Klára Dobrev. We have already noticed in the previous weeks that Kossuth Radio, the state media and the public media not only do not attack her, but praise her, and that critical news about me or news discrediting Gergely Karácsony have been published there for so long.”
Márki-Zay added that similarly, Pesti Hírlap, “a free propaganda paper distributed in Budapest but also reaching other parts of the country, has taken out a full front page ad vilifying me, trying to portray me as a child abuser.” He believes that the entire Fidesz press has joined the campaign of the Democratic Coalition’s candidate for prime minister, with the aim of discrediting him.
DK claims the opposite
On the contrary, Democratic Coalition claims that Fidesz is actually encouraging people to vote for Péter Márki-Zay.
“If Fidesz is mobilizing for Márki-Zay, then we should all go out and vote!”, a Thursday e-mail by DK states, urging recipients to vote for Klára Dobrev.
According to the message, the party has received several warnings in recent days from all over the country that “Fidesz may be mobilizing voters for Péter Márki-Zay” in the second round of the primary election.
The party said it was currently working to find evidence of this, but feared that “by the time it happens, it will be too late.” According to news site Telex, DK also sent text messages with the same warning.