A group photo with the leaders of the 2022 pre-election coalition
The State Audit Office of Hungary (ÁSZ) has imposed a HUF 500 million (EUR 1.3 million) fine on the left-wing parties of last year’s electoral coalition, Magyar Nemzet has learned. The penalty is related to the 2022 election campaign financing scandal of the opposition coalition.
260 million forints (EUR 700.000) of the foreign funding examined in the first round was classified as illegal, hence the entire amount will have to be paid out as a penalty. It would be divided equally between the six parties of the coalition.
This means a fine of roughly HUF 43.5 million per party (Democratic Coalition, MSZP, Dialogue, LMP, Momentum, Jobbik).
It is important to note, however, that in such cases the ÁSZ and the Treasury withhold an amount equal to the fine from the state subsidies due to the party concerned, doubling the actual fine.
The most serious campaign finance scandal of the post-1989 regime change period erupted last August when former prime ministerial candidate Péter Márki-Zay mentioned that the Everyone’s Hungary Movement (MMM), which he founded, had received millions of dollars in funding from the United States in June, well after the parliamentary elections. According to the former joint candidate for prime minister of the left, this money helped to pay bills remaining after the campaign.
After the case broke out, the opposition parties behind Péter Márki-Zay pretended that they had no knowledge of the US money coming to MMM.
Nevertheless, if proved guilty, the six parties involved in last year’s election coalition could be fined HUF 3.2 billion (EUR 9 million) for illegal foreign funding.
An investigation by the ÁSZ found that Péter Márki-Zay’s association spent nearly HUF 1.7 billion during the election campaign. The partial report of the audit body gives more than a hundred examples to show that the money, mostly from abroad, actually went to the campaigns of left-wing parties. The partial report found that DK, Jobbik, Momentum, MSZP, LMP and Dialogue ignored the good faith practice of not accepting foreign funds for election campaigns, circumventing the law in financing their coalition.
Over 1.8 billion forints of dollars had been transferred to the left through the American group Action for Democracy lobby organization led by former associate of Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány, Dávid Korányi. As the country’s sovereignty may have been compromised by the US money, the Office for the Protection of the Constitution (AH) also launched an investigation. Later, a published secret service report also revealed that Action for Democracy not only donated to Péter Márki-Zay’s movement, but also gave HUF 1 billion to the publisher of the opposition propaganda newspaper Ezalényeg.hu.
The biggest slice was taken by DatAdat, a company linked to former socialist Prime Minister Gordon Bajnai’s family, which also received billions of dollars, partly from Hungarian recipients and partly directly from overseas.
Since then, a new declassified intelligence document has come to light, revealing that there is not one but two major foreign donors to the left-wing parties: in addition to the American Action for Democracy, a Swiss foundation also transferred almost one billion forints (EUR 2.6 million). The Swiss transfers were made in several installments between September 2021 and February 2022.
Budapest’s liberal mayor, Gergely Karácsony’s association, the 99 Movement, also received foreign funds. The tax authority (NAV) is investigating this case on suspicion of budget fraud and money laundering, as well as the use of forged private documents following a complaint by OTP Bank.
In order to prevent such a foreign funding scandal, and election interference from happening in the future, the Hungarian government is introducing a new bill to increase the transparency of election funding, and establishing an Office for the Protections Sovereignty.