A national security committee meeting convened to discuss potential Hungarian ties to the Strache affair lacked a quorum on Friday because of a no-show by ruling party representatives.
Heinz-Christian Strache resigned his post of Austria’s vice-chancellor last weekend after a video emerged of him offering state contracts to a woman claiming to be a rich Russian in exchange for support in the 2017 election campaign.
Strache suggested trading government contracts in exchange for campaign funds and discussed “building a media landscape” like the Hungarian PM’s. The plan included turning Austria’s biggest tabloid and public broadcaster into pro-FPÖ platforms. The woman proposed acquiring a 50-percent stake in the Kronen Zeitung, a highly influential Austrian tabloid, and Strache offered public contracts in return. Strache mentioned the name of Heinrich Pecina, a former media mogul in Hungary who bought many media outlets before later selling them to Fidesz circles. The FPÖ leader even suggested involving Pecina in plan arranged with the woman.
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The national security committee meeting had been convened by Ádám Mirkóczki, the committee’s Jobbik head.
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In a statement issued just before the meeting’s scheduled start time, ruling Fidesz said it was the Socialist Party that had done business with Heinrich Pecina, an Austrian businessman mentioned by Strache in the video when the party sold him its shares in the leftist-leaning daily Népszabadság. “If the opposition wants something to be investigated, it should be this,” Fidesz said, adding that “the ruling party representatives will not assist the opposition in its campaign event.”
Later Pecina closed Népszabadság, Hungary’s largest circulation daily at the time. A few days later the Austrian businessman sold his huge Hungarian media empire to Fidesz circles.
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Opposition: Fidesz and secret services boycott end of parliamentarism
Speaking to reporters after the meeting’s cancellation, Mirkóczki said it was not the first time that the ruling parties had boycotted a committee meeting, but a no-show by representatives of the intelligence community was unprecedented. He said this could constitute a violation of Hungary’s national security law.
Mirkóczki said the committee will ask Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó and Interior Minister Sándor Pintér whether they had instructed the intelligence representatives to stay away from the meeting. If it turns out that it was not the ministers who had given the order, he said, they will turn to the agencies themselves to ask whether the instruction had come from Fidesz.
At the proposal of the Socialist Party’s Zsolt Molnár, the committee will also ask Speaker of Parliament László Kövér whether he plans to recommend the committee’s dissolution, Mirkóczki said. Friday’s agenda would have covered threats to Hungary’s independence and sovereignty, he added.
Péter Ungár of opposition LMP said business transactions similar to the one mentioned in the Strache video had also been conducted in Hungary, insisting that the upgrade of Hungary’s Paks nuclear power plant was one of the most lucrative of those deals.
Zsolt Molnár said Friday had seen “the end of Hungarian parliamentarism”. He said the no-show by intelligence representatives was proof that Hungary was functioning like a single-party state and raised the question of how they had known that the meeting would lack quorum.
In the featured photo: PM Viktor Orbán and Austria Vice-Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache. Photo by Szilárd Koszticsák/MTI