Hungary

   

Quality of Democracy

#40
Key Findings
Having taken large steps back in recent years, Hungary falls into the bottom ranks (rank 40) with regard to democracy quality. Its score on this measure has declined by 1.7 points since 2014.

Electoral procedures such as voting rights and party registration and funding are arranged to dilute opposition support. Most traditional media outlets are now controlled by the government or allied oligarchs. The internet has thus become the central forum for public discourse and information, though this too is disrupted by disinformation and bot campaigns.

Popular initiatives are used as an expression of dissent, but most are refused by the government-controlled election board. Asylum-seekers are subject to forced detention. Activities assisting refugees have been criminalized, and a new “privacy protection” principle protects politicians from criticism, whistleblowing and investigative journalism. The government’s anti-Soros campaign has invoked anti-Semitic stereotypes.

Judicial independence has declined substantially, and corruption is pervasive. A new constitutional amendment narrows the sources of interpretation available to the courts, binding them to lawmakers’ original reasoning. The 2018 elections restored the government’s two-thirds parliamentary majority, giving it complete control over judicial appointments.

Electoral Processes

#40

How fair are procedures for registering candidates and parties?

10
 9

Legal regulations provide for a fair registration procedure for all elections; candidates and parties are not discriminated against.
 8
 7
 6


A few restrictions on election procedures discriminate against a small number of candidates and parties.
 5
 4
 3


Some unreasonable restrictions on election procedures exist that discriminate against many candidates and parties.
 2
 1

Discriminating registration procedures for elections are widespread and prevent a large number of potential candidates or parties from participating.
Candidacy Procedures
6
The far-reaching changes to Hungary’s electoral law in the run-up to the April 2014 parliamentary elections included amendments to registration procedures. The combination of decreased registration requirements and generous public funding for candidates and party lists has favored a surge in candidacies, with the evident aim of confounding voters and weakening the opposition. Right before the 2018 parliamentary elections there were about two hundred registered parties. Because individuals can sign up for several parties, many parties succeeded in collecting enough signatures to appear on the ballot. In some cases, the list of signatures for one party was simply copied by another. As a result, the party list was intransparent for many citizens, even more so as the names of some of the pseudo or fake parties were similar to those of opposition parties. Similarly, many candidates running in relatively big numbers in single member districts just picked up the money and disturbed the voters on the opposition side by causing uncertainty. Election commissions at both the central and constituency level largely failed to address cases of alleged signature fraud. While the votes for phantom parties cannot account for Fidesz’s victory as such, the presence of phantom parties may have been critical to Fidesz being able to regain a two-thirds majority.

Citations:
OSCE/ODIHR (2018): Hungary – Parliamentary Elections, 8 April 2018. Limited Election Observation Mission Final Report. Warsaw, 10-12 (https://www.osce.org/odihr/elections/hungary/385959?download=true).

To what extent do candidates and parties have fair access to the media and other means of communication?

10
 9

All candidates and parties have equal opportunities of access to the media and other means of communication. All major media outlets provide a fair and balanced coverage of the range of different political positions.
 8
 7
 6


Candidates and parties have largely equal opportunities of access to the media and other means of communication. The major media outlets provide a fair and balanced coverage of different political positions.
 5
 4
 3


Candidates and parties often do not have equal opportunities of access to the media and other means of communication. While the major media outlets represent a partisan political bias, the media system as a whole provides fair coverage of different political positions.
 2
 1

Candidates and parties lack equal opportunities of access to the media and other means of communications. The major media outlets are biased in favor of certain political groups or views and discriminate against others.
Media Access
2
In the 2018 election campaign, media access was highly uneven. The Orbán government ignored the existing formal duties for balanced coverage and made strong use of its control over the public and private media. After the failed anti-refugee referendum in 2016, the Orbán government also radically rearranged the advertisement market by handing over the control of billboards to pro-government companies and subnational governments. The opposition had some access to the public via the media empire of Lajos Simicska, an enigmatic oligarch that fell out of favor with Orbán in 2015 and supported Jobbik in the 2018 election campaign.

To what extent do all citizens have the opportunity to exercise their right of participation in national elections?

10
 9

All adult citizens can participate in national elections. All eligible voters are registered if they wish to be. There are no discriminations observable in the exercise of the right to vote. There are no disincentives to voting.
 8
 7
 6


The procedures for the registration of voters and voting are for the most part effective, impartial and nondiscriminatory. Citizens can appeal to courts if they feel being discriminated. Disincentives to voting generally do not constitute genuine obstacles.
 5
 4
 3


While the procedures for the registration of voters and voting are de jure non-discriminatory, isolated cases of discrimination occur in practice. For some citizens, disincentives to voting constitute significant obstacles.
 2
 1

The procedures for the registration of voters or voting have systemic discriminatory effects. De facto, a substantial number of adult citizens are excluded from national elections.
Voting and Registration Rights
3
Registration and voting procedures for the parliamentary elections in Hungary have been heavily tilted in favor of the governing Fidesz party. The single most important problem has been the unequal treatment of three groups of eligible voters: (1) Hungarians living in Hungary, (2) Hungarians with dual citizenship in neighboring countries and (3) Hungarian citizens working abroad. While the first group can vote without registration, the others have to register beforehand through a complicated procedure. Hungarians living abroad and in possession of dual citizenship – who usually demonstrate a strong political affinity for Fidesz – can vote by mail. In contrast, Hungarian citizens working abroad, who are often opposed to the Orbán government can vote only at diplomatic missions which, often far away and easily challenged by possible high turnouts. These biased procedures gave a big advantage to Fidesz both in the 2014 and 2018 elections and contributed to its victories

Citations:
OSCE/ODIHR (2018): Hungary – Parliamentary Elections, 8 April 2018. Limited Election Observation Mission Final Report. Warsaw, 9-10(https://www.osce.org/odihr/elections/hungary/385959?download=true).

To what extent is private and public party financing and electoral campaign financing transparent, effectively monitored and in case of infringement of rules subject to proportionate and dissuasive sanction?

10
 9

The state enforces that donations to political parties are made public and provides for independent monitoring to that respect. Effective measures to prevent evasion are effectively in place and infringements subject to effective, proportionate and dissuasive sanctions.
 8
 7
 6


The state enforces that donations to political parties are made public and provides for independent monitoring. Although infringements are subject to proportionate sanctions, some, although few, loopholes and options for circumvention still exist.
 5
 4
 3


The state provides that donations to political parties shall be published. Party financing is subject to some degree of independent monitoring but monitoring either proves regularly ineffective or proportionate sanctions in case of infringement do not follow.
 2
 1

The rules for party and campaign financing do not effectively enforce the obligation to make the donations public. Party and campaign financing is neither monitored independently nor, in case of infringements, subject to proportionate sanctions.
Party Financing
3
The Orbán government has kept the public financing of bigger, parliamentary parties low. An amendment of the law on party financing in 2013, shifted funds toward individual candidates and smaller parties, thus contributing to the large number of candidates in the 2014 and 2018 parliamentary elections. While it has become easier for small parties to enter the political arena, the political landscape has got more fragmented, to the detriment of bigger opposition parties. The financial gap between Fidesz and the opposition has been large. With membership declining, the non-governing parties have lost revenues from membership fees and have become dependent on rich donors. While Jobbik has benefited from the support by Simicska, the time of tycoons with leftist leanings has passed. Even more importantly, Fidesz has been able to circumvent the restrictions on campaign spending by involving formally independent civic associations and by blurring the boundaries between itself and government campaigns. The government also succeeded in weakening opposition parties by punishing them for alleged financial irregularities. For example, in December 2017, the ÁSZ, the state audit office, pushed Jobbik, its main contender, to the wall by imposing a fine of HUF 600 million. Some other opposition parties were concerned, too, and there was no opportunity to appeal the ÁSZ decisions, which left all opposition parties with limited financial resources for their election campaigns.

Citations:
OSCE/ODIHR (2018): Hungary – Parliamentary Elections, 8 April 2018. Limited Election Observation Mission Final Report. Warsaw, 15-17 (https://www.osce.org/odihr/elections/hungary/385959?download=true).

Do citizens have the opportunity to take binding political decisions when they want to do so?

10
 9

Citizens have the effective opportunity to actively propose and take binding decisions on issues of importance to them through popular initiatives and referendums. The set of eligible issues is extensive, and includes national, regional, and local issues.
 8
 7
 6


Citizens have the effective opportunity to take binding decisions on issues of importance to them through either popular initiatives or referendums. The set of eligible issues covers at least two levels of government.
 5
 4
 3


Citizens have the effective opportunity to vote on issues of importance to them through a legally binding measure. The set of eligible issues is limited to one level of government.
 2
 1

Citizens have no effective opportunity to vote on issues of importance to them through a legally binding measure.
Popular Decision-Making
5
The 2011 constitution has limited the scope for popular decision-making by abolishing popular initiatives, expanding the set of issues exempt from referendums and raising the thresholds for referendum success to a 50% participation threshold. For the weak and fragmented opposition, referendums could have become the most important means of mobilizing support and expressing dissent. A case in point is the successful mobilization for a municipal referendum in Budapest against the 2024 Olympic Summer Games. In January 2017, a group of young activists organized a movement called Momentum and launched a campaign against the unpopular Olympic Games, a prestige project of the Orbán government. All opposition parties joined the “NOlimpia” campaign and Momentum succeeded in collecting 266.000 signatures in a short period of time, much more than needed to have a referendum. Realizing the resistance of the citizens, the Orbán government withdrew its bid for the games in February 2017. Inspired by this success, proposals for referendums have become a fashionable instrument for the opposition. however, all initiatives have been refused by the government-controlled National Election Committee (NVB), which enjoys considerable discretion in deciding whether the issues are eligible for a referendum or not. At the same time; the government has continued in carrying out its annual “national consultations,” fake referendums that are based on letters to citizens with misleading and manipulated questions.

Access to Information

#40

To what extent are the media independent from government?

10
 9

Public and private media are independent from government influence; their independence is institutionally protected and fully respected by the incumbent government.
 8
 7
 6


The incumbent government largely respects the independence of media. However, there are occasional attempts to exert influence.
 5
 4
 3


The incumbent government seeks to ensure its political objectives indirectly by influencing the personnel policies, organizational framework or financial resources of public media, and/or the licensing regime/market access for private media.
 2
 1

Major media outlets are frequently influenced by the incumbent government promoting its partisan political objectives. To ensure pro-government media reporting, governmental actors exert direct political pressure and violate existing rules of media regulation or change them to benefit their interests.
Media Freedom
2
In Hungary, media freedom exists only on paper, since more than 90% of media are controlled by the government, either directly, as in the case of the public media, or indirectly, as in the case of private media owned by Fidesz oligarchs. The highly controversial media laws in 2010/11 have effectively involved a “media capture” by the state since they have strengthened government control over the media by vesting a Media Council (staffed entirely by Fidesz associates) with media-content oversight powers and the right to grant broadcasting licenses. Since then, media freedom has been further restricted by the takeover of formerly independent media by oligarchs close to Fidesz, supported through the strategic allocation of government advertisements. Fidesz oligarchs now control all regional dailies, which still have a large readership, and almost all local radio stations. The situation with weeklies is not as bad, but their readership is limited to the elite of the country. Moreover, society is vulnerable to disinformation campaigns and fake news. In recent years, the Hungarian media has been penetrated by around 100 locally operated, Russia-linked disinformation sites, which have supported the Fidesz agenda.

Since the 2018 elections, Fidesz has completed its media capture through the liquidation of Simicska media. The government has also brought about radical changes in pro-government media, which includes a reorganization of media outlets that are close to or owned by Fidesz. This involves disciplining employees and bringing in new editors to outlets such as Kommentár (monthly) and Mandiner (online). There has been a big scandal surrounding Fidesz’s first and most prestigious media outlet, the monthly Századvég, which was launched in the late 1980s. Because the fall 2018 Issue of Századvég contained critical papers about the government’s economic policy, it was destroyed, and the editors dismissed. The government has also announced plans to merge all Fidesz papers into one company (Media Fundamentum) in order to exercise better control over them.

To what extent are the media characterized by an ownership structure that ensures a pluralism of opinions?

10
 9

Diversified ownership structures characterize both the electronic and print media market, providing a well-balanced pluralism of opinions. Effective anti-monopoly policies and impartial, open public media guarantee a pluralism of opinions.
 8
 7
 6


Diversified ownership structures prevail in the electronic and print media market. Public media compensate for deficiencies or biases in private media reporting by representing a wider range of opinions.
 5
 4
 3


Oligopolistic ownership structures characterize either the electronic or the print media market. Important opinions are represented but there are no or only weak institutional guarantees against the predominance of certain opinions.
 2
 1

Oligopolistic ownership structures characterize both the electronic and the print media market. Few companies dominate the media, most programs are biased, and there is evidence that certain opinions are not published or are marginalized.
Media Pluralism
3
Since the second Orbán government assumed office in 2010, media pluralism in Hungary has suffered both from increasing government control over the public media and a process of concentration of private-media ownership in the hands of companies close to Fidesz. This process continued after the parliamentary elections in April 2018 when Lajos Simicska, an enigmatic oligarch who had fallen out with Orbán in 2015, left the country and dispensed with his media empire. He closed down the daily Magyár Nemzet, the radio station Lánchíd Radio and the weekly Heti Válasz, and sold the news channel Hír TV, the most popular rightwing-conservative TV station. There are still some independent media, but they work under very difficult financial and political circumstances and reach only 10% of the overall population. Klubrádió, the one and only independent radio station, is on air only in Budapest. Népszava, the only national-wide independent daily, has a small circulation. It has been kept alive by government ads in order to serve as a fig leaf. The remaining independent weeklies (hvg, Magyar Narancs and 168 óra) address predominantly highly educated urban readers. The internet as a source of information away from state-influenced media has become more and more important. But even free information via the internet is increasingly under threat as bots seek to influence the discourse with fake news and defamation campaigns on behalf of the government.

To what extent can citizens obtain official information?

10
 9

Legal regulations guarantee free and easy access to official information, contain few, reasonable restrictions, and there are effective mechanisms of appeal and oversight enabling citizens to access information.
 8
 7
 6


Access to official information is regulated by law. Most restrictions are justified, but access is sometimes complicated by bureaucratic procedures. Existing appeal and oversight mechanisms permit citizens to enforce their right of access.
 5
 4
 3


Access to official information is partially regulated by law, but complicated by bureaucratic procedures and some poorly justified restrictions. Existing appeal and oversight mechanisms are often ineffective.
 2
 1

Access to official information is not regulated by law; there are many restrictions of access, bureaucratic procedures and no or ineffective mechanisms of enforcement.
Access to Government Information
4
While existing law provides for far-reaching access to government information, the government has made it difficult for the public and the media to obtain information, especially on issues relating to public procurement by referring to business secrets. Under the Orbán governments there has been a constant fight between the government and the democratic opposition over access to government data and documents, often fought at the courts. Professional NGOs – notably Transparency International Hungary, the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union (TASZ) and the “Átlátszó” (Transparent) website – have worked intensively to claim government information through the courts, and independent media organizations (websites such as hvg.hu, 444.hu and index.hu) have regularly published categorized government information. Providing day-to-day information on fake government deals (“mutyi-mondó”) has become a new feature of the opposition online media. As a reaction, the government has tried to raise fees substantially for processing public documents.

Civil Rights and Political Liberties

#39

To what extent does the state respect and protect civil rights and how effectively are citizens protected by courts against infringements of their rights?

10
 9

All state institutions respect and effectively protect civil rights. Citizens are effectively protected by courts against infringements of their rights. Infringements present an extreme exception.
 8
 7
 6


The state respects and protects rights, with few infringements. Courts provide protection.
 5
 4
 3


Despite formal protection, frequent infringements of civil rights occur and court protection often proves ineffective.
 2
 1

State institutions respect civil rights only formally, and civil rights are frequently violated. Court protection is not effective.
Civil Rights
4
The Orbán governments have formally respected civil rights. However, the rule of law has suffered from the government’s politicization of the courts, its failure to protect Roma and other minorities from harassment and hate speech, and its attempts to criminalize the (former) left-wing elite. The Prosecutor General has acted as a shield protecting Fidesz affiliates and initiating fake legal processes against opposition actors, damaging their economic situation and private life. In the context of the EU refugee crisis, the Orbán government adopted emergency legislation that has raised fears of an emerging police state both inside and outside Hungary. The forced detention for all asylum-seekers introduced in March 2017 prompted harsh criticism by the international community. So had the government’s new legislation on NGOs adopted in June 2017 which obliges all NGOs receiving more than 7.2 million HUF (around Euro 24.000) annually from abroad to register with the courts and to present themselves to the public as “foreign-funded NGOs.” Like the Russian “foreign agent” legislation, it has especially aimed at stigmatizing those organization and activists which get resources from the international networks to protect civil rights, including Amnesty International or the Red Cross.

To what extent does the state concede and protect political liberties?

10
 9

All state institutions concede and effectively protect political liberties.
 8
 7
 6


All state institutions for the most part concede and protect political liberties. There are only few infringements.
 5
 4
 3


State institutions concede political liberties but infringements occur regularly in practice.
 2
 1

Political liberties are unsatisfactory codified and frequently violated.
Political Liberties
3
The Orbán governments have shown little respect for political liberties. They have harassed NGOs and have used “soft violence” against demonstrators at public or political events by relying on aggressively acting “private” security services (e.g., Valton Security). In Putin style, Orbán and other Fidesz leaders have defamed opposition activists as traitors to the Hungarian nation and as foreign agents paid by George Soros. During the period under review, a tough campaign involving threats and intimidation was waged against Hungarian members of the European Parliament and others who have expressed support of the Sargentini Report. The “Stop Soros” legislation and the 7th amendment of the constitution, both adopted in June 2018, have formalized the attack on political liberties. Both have contained a criminalization of activities connected to immigration or assisting refugees. Beyond this, the government has introduced a new privacy protection principle aimed at protecting politicians from criticism, whistleblowing and investigative journalism. Finally, assembly rights have been restricted by not allowing public protests and mass gatherings that could disturb the “privacy of people,” in other words, demonstrations that are held close to the politicians’ private homes.

Citations:
Amnesty International (2018): Hungary: New Laws That Violate Human Rights, Threaten Civil Society and Undermine the Rule of Law Should be Shelved. London (https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/eur27/8633/2018/en/).

European Parliament (2018): Report on a proposal calling on the Council to determine, pursuant to Article 7(1) of the Treaty on European Union, the existence of a clear risk of a serious breach by Hungary of the values on which the Union is founded (“Sargentini-Report”). A8-0250/2018, Strasbourg (http://www.europarl.europa.eu/doceo/document/A-8-2018-0250_EN.pdf).

Hungarian Civil Liberties Union (2018): Summary of the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union’s analysis of the new bill on the Right to Assembly, July 24, Budapest (https://hclu.hu/en/articles/summary-of-the-hungarian-civil-liberties-unions-analysis-of-the-new-bill-on-the-right-to-assembly).

How effectively does the state protect against different forms of discrimination?

10
 9

State institutions effectively protect against and actively prevent discrimination. Cases of discrimination are extremely rare.
 8
 7
 6


State anti-discrimination protections are moderately successful. Few cases of discrimination are observed.
 5
 4
 3


State anti-discrimination efforts show limited success. Many cases of discrimination can be observed.
 2
 1

The state does not offer effective protection against discrimination. Discrimination is widespread in the public sector and in society.
Non-discrimination
4
Hungary has a comprehensive anti-discrimination legal framework in place, but in practice, little is done to enforce it. Fidesz’s traditional family concept corresponds with strong discrimination against women in the areas of employment, career and pay. Tellingly, there is only one female minister in the fourth Orbán government. The failure is even greater regarding the Roma minority. By trying to create a separate school system, the Orbán government has aggravated the segregation in education. The government has also continued its hate campaign against Muslims and refugees. As a result, xenophobia has grown among Hungarians, with a spillover to all kinds of minorities, including Jews, since the government’s aggresive campaign against George Soros invoked anti-Semitic stereotypes.

Citations:
European Commission (2018): Civil society monitoring report on implementation of the national Roma integration strategies. Brussels (https://cps.ceu.edu/sites/cps.ceu.edu/files/attachment/basicpage/3034/rcm-civil-society-monitoring-report-1-hungary-2017.pdf).

Rule of Law

#40

To what extent do government and administration act on the basis of and in accordance with legal provisions to provide legal certainty?

10
 9

Government and administration act predictably, on the basis of and in accordance with legal provisions. Legal regulations are consistent and transparent, ensuring legal certainty.
 8
 7
 6


Government and administration rarely make unpredictable decisions. Legal regulations are consistent, but leave a large scope of discretion to the government or administration.
 5
 4
 3


Government and administration sometimes make unpredictable decisions that go beyond given legal bases or do not conform to existing legal regulations. Some legal regulations are inconsistent and contradictory.
 2
 1

Government and administration often make unpredictable decisions that lack a legal basis or ignore existing legal regulations. Legal regulations are inconsistent, full of loopholes and contradict each other.
Legal Certainty
3
As the Orbán governments have taken a voluntarist approach toward lawmaking, legal certainty has strongly suffered from chaotic, rapidly changing legislation. The hasty legislative process has regularly violated the Act on Legislation, which calls for a process of social consultation if the government presents a draft law. Legal certainty will be further weakened by the planned establishment of administrative courts, a new branch of the judiciary that is entirely under governmental control. As a result, Hungary is not characterized by the rule of law, but by rule by law.

To what extent do independent courts control whether government and administration act in conformity with the law?

10
 9

Independent courts effectively review executive action and ensure that the government and administration act in conformity with the law.
 8
 7
 6


Independent courts usually manage to control whether the government and administration act in conformity with the law.
 5
 4
 3


Courts are independent, but often fail to ensure legal compliance.
 2
 1

Courts are biased for or against the incumbent government and lack effective control.
Judicial Review
4
The independence of the Hungarian judiciary has drastically declined under the Orbán governments, and the impact of the fourth Orbán government will probably limit it even further. While the lower courts in most cases still take independent decisions, the Constitutional Court, the Kúria (Curia, previously the Supreme Court) and the National Office of the Judiciary (OBH) have increasingly come under government control and have often been criticized for taking biased decisions. The same goes for Péter Polt, the Chief Public Prosecutor and a former Fidesz politician, who has persistently refrained from investigating the corrupt practices of prominent Fidesz oligarchs. The Alliance of Hungarian Judges (Magyar Bírói Egyesület) has repeatedly criticized President of National Judiciary Office (OBH) Tünde Handó who has no formal power to promote judges to a higher position but has in fact used her position to influence decisions. As a result of the declining independence and quality of the Hungarian judiciary, more and more court proceedings have ended up at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg. Hungary is among the countries generating the most cases, and the Hungarian state often loses these lawsuits.

After the 2018 elections, the government launched a new round of judicial reforms. In June 2018, Prime Minister Orbán announced a long series of basic amendments to be made to the Fundamental Law, the Hungarian constitution, that have been prepared by a new constitutional committee. The first step was taken with the 7th constitutional amendment passed by parliament in June 2018. It has narrowed the sources of interpretation available to justices by making the reasoning of the proponents of a legal regulation a primary consideration in terms of interpretation, Moreover, it has paved the way for the creation of a separate administrative court system which is supposed to monitor state activity, but is under strong government control.

To what extent does the process of appointing (supreme or constitutional court) justices guarantee the independence of the judiciary?

10
 9

Justices are appointed in a cooperative appointment process with special majority requirements.
 8
 7
 6


Justices are exclusively appointed by different bodies with special majority requirements or in a cooperative selection process without special majority requirements.
 5
 4
 3


Justices are exclusively appointed by different bodies without special majority requirements.
 2
 1

All judges are appointed exclusively by a single body irrespective of other institutions.
Appointment of Justices
2
The 2012 constitution left the rules for selecting members of the Constitutional Court untouched. Its justices are still elected by parliament with a two-thirds majority. The second Fidesz government (2010-2014) used its two-thirds majority to appoint loyalists to the court. The third Fidesz government initially enjoyed a two-thirds majority, but lost it during the term. It succeeded in getting the support of the opposition party Politics Can Be Different (LMP) for the nomination of four new justices in November 2016. The 2018 elections restored the government’s two-thirds majority, thus restoring the Fidesz government’s complete control over the appointment of the justices of the constitutional court.

To what extent are public officeholders prevented from abusing their position for private interests?

10
 9

Legal, political and public integrity mechanisms effectively prevent public officeholders from abusing their positions.
 8
 7
 6


Most integrity mechanisms function effectively and provide disincentives for public officeholders willing to abuse their positions.
 5
 4
 3


Some integrity mechanisms function, but do not effectively prevent public officeholders from abusing their positions.
 2
 1

Public officeholders can exploit their offices for private gain as they see fit without fear of legal consequences or adverse publicity.
Corruption Prevention
3
Widespread corruption has been a systemic feature of the Orbán governments, with benefits and influence growing through Fidesz informal political-business networks. Members of the Fidesz elite have been involved in a number of corruption scandals, with many people accumulating substantial wealth in a short period of time, most notably Lőrinc Mészáros, István Garancsi and István Tiborcz (the son in law of Orbán). According to Forbes Hungary, Mészáros, for example, has tripled his fortune in 2017. Corruption has become so pervasive that even some senior Fidesz figures have begun openly criticizing the Fidesz elite’s rapid wealth accumulation. Corruption in Hungary has to be seen through the prism of oligarchic structures and is strongly linked to public procurement, often related to investments based on EU funds and facilitated by the new public procurement law of 2012. A general problem here is that there is comparably little competition in this field, in 36% of public procurements there has been just one contender, the second worst case in the EU. Its political power has allowed the Orbán government to keep corruption under the carpet. De-democratization and growing corruption are thus mutually reinforcing processes. As a result, the fight against corruption has largely rested with the political opposition and some independent NGOs. In addition to Transparency International Hungary and Átlátszó (Transparent), Ákos Hadházy, the former co-president of the opposition party Politics Can Be Different (LMP), has been very active and effective in investigating the corruption by the leading Fidesz politicians and oligarchs, and he has recently begun collecting signatures to join the European Public Prosecutor’s Office, refused by the Hungarian government.
Back to Top