In the wake of the publication of this year’s asset declarations that many think are difficult to take seriously in their current form, a number of NGOs and political parties want a more deeper and stricter asset declaration process. The Prime Minister’s “zero-sum” declaration is once again the focus of attention and criticism.
The policy makers’ yearly asset declarations have once again generated week-long debates. Transparency International (TI) has long been criticizing today’s system which in their view, cannot ensure the proper and acceptable level of transparency. The corruption watchdog’s main problem is that applicable laws do not ensure this, while declarations are not disclosed in every instance and the declaration of relatives remain undisclosed too. Also, the inspection of the content is only a formality and the person filling out the declaration with false information is not sanctioned dissuasively, they say.
In the same manner, anti-corruption and pro-transparency NGO K-Monitor again came up with a solution (worked out together with aforementioned TI, and atlatszo.hu). The four cornerstones of their proposal are “genuine publicity” (for example, a unified, electronic system); “genuine content” (for example, a non-public annex containing data capable of identification of properties); “genuine oversight” (for example, the involvement of the tax authority), and “genuine sanctions.”
Former Jobbik, now independent lawmaker János Bencsik and his newly-established Civic Answer party (that vows to be a “third choice” between the opposition cooperation and ruling Fidesz-KDNP), also want stricter control and consequences, emphasizing that declarations can now be modified any time. According to their draft bill, misleading information (or lack of) in an asset declaration should be considered as document fraud, and be punished with a prison term of 1-3 years.
Performances inspired by PM Orbán’s declaration
Meanwhile, several statements targeted the Prime Minister and his declaration, according to which Orbán has no savings, and owns only two properties and has a loan that he has been repaying together with his wife for almost two decades.
Rightist opposition Jobbik’s MP János Stummer offered HUF 75 (EUR 0.21) to the Prime Minister, while dubbing him “the nation’s beggar.” The politician, who also chairs the Parliament’s Committee on National Security, commented that he gave exactly the same amount by which the government increased the daily wage of the public workers and 75 forints more than “these hypocritical villains” helped those who got in trouble due to the coronavirus crisis.
In addition, Jobbik’s Young Section (IT) took to selling potatoes (in reference to the government’s recent potato distributions, for example, in the Foreign Ministry or ahead of by-elections) in front of Viktor Orbán’s office in the Carmelite Monastery. They intended to help the PM with the profits, however, “no one was willing to pay for the potatoes sold on the basis of the honor-system because people simply didn’t believe that the Prime Minister was really so impoverished,” the IT commented.
Land purchase by Cabinet Chief Rogán’s new wife’s family also suspicious
The Prime Minister’s Cabinet Chief Antal Rogán has also repeatedly faced criticism when it comes to discussing politicians’ financial background and enrichment. This time it was only his asset declaration which revealed the fact of his (third) marriage. On Tuesday, however, it also turned out that ahead of their wedding in December, his new wife’s family bought some 1,022 hectares of land for HUF 1.5 billion (EUR 4.2 million), 95% of which had been paid out of the land purchase loan received from state-owned Budapest Bank. Later, more contracts were unearthed proving that Rogan’s father-in-law bought 149 hectares for more than HUF 182 million (EUR 510 thousand) a few weeks before the couple married with the same loan ratio.
Therefore, leftist opposition Democratic Coalition (DK) has initiated an asset declaration inquiry against Rogán.
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Government: Hungarian system strict enough
The government regularly rebuffs criticism about the asset declarations by claiming that Hungary has one of the strictest asset declaration systems in Europe.
This is also what the PMO Chief repeated at his regular press briefing on Friday. Gergely Gulyás stated that relevant authorities launch proceedings immedatiately in case of any suspicion. There is no any such suspicion in Rogán’s (and his new family’s) case either, he said.
featured image: Orbán and Rogán in the Parliament (illustration); via Lajos Soós/MTI