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Dialogue Invites President Novák to Take Part in Budapest Pride Event

In an online news conference held on Friday, opposition party Dialogue invited Hungarian President Katalin Novák to take part in one of the Budapest Pride events.

Since Hungary’s head of state “has spoken so much” about how she represents the entire nation and wants to show some kind of unity, said party spokesperson Richárd Barabás, it would “very much help heal the country’s wounds if, for example, she paid her respects at a Pride event.”

Barabás said that Dialogue believes in love and freedom, and stands up for all members of both the hetero and LGBTQI communities.

In a possible response to the invitation, Katalin Novák listed on social media five areas in which she “will invigorate Hungarians,” but none declared any support for Hungary’s LGBTQI community.

Speaking in an interview with Telex a few days ago, Novák stated that she had not been to a Pride event, and was not planning to go one in the future. [Magyar Hang]

Hungary to Dip Into Strategic Oil Reserve

Hungary will make some of its strategic oil reserves available for domestic use following the shutdown of the oil refinery in Schwechat, Austria, according to a statement issued by the Ministry of Technology and Industry on Saturday.

The country is dipping into its oil reserves to ensure the supply of fuel due to a longer-than-planned shutdown at the Schwechat oil refinery. Austrian energy company OMV will resupply the reserves now being released as soon as it is able to do so.

A week ago, Austria decided to release some of its own fuel reserves in the wake of an accident at OMV’s Schwechat refinery to maintain the steady supply of fuel and carry out maintenance work. [Népszava]

Hungarian Social Media Excels in Spreading Pro-Kremlin Narratives, Research Shows

While Russian-friendly Facebook posts appear in many different languages, the Disinformation Situation Centre has found that Hungarian social media is a standout in the international arena, at least when it comes to reporting on Russia’s Victory Day parade on May 9, writes fact-checing site Lakmusz.

According to the article, the most popular pro-Russian post was published in Hungarian, on the “Orosz Hírek” (Russian News) Facebook page, and that Hungarian posts were the most pro-Kremlin. A post about Vladimir Putin’s speech received more than 788,000 views and 5,035 shares.

The research showed that 7 out of the 10 most viral Hungarian-language posts about Victory Day pushed pro-Kremlin narratives.

Out of the 110 most shared posts on the topic, 36 contained pro-Russia narratives and were shared 50,000 times. Of these, 4 posts were in Hungarian, 4 in Spanish, 2 in Italian, 2 in Dutch and one each in German, French, and Czech.

Russian aggression was primarily justified in these posts by drawing parallels between Ukraine and Nazi Germany, while other posts claimed that the Russians were fighting “fascists.” [HVG]

Republikon: Fidesz Has Grown Support Since Election

Support for the political opposition continued to drop after suffering a brutal electoral loss and Fidesz securing another two-thirds majority in Parliament. The latest poll of party preferences by the Republikon Institute also shows that support for the governing parties has jumped since the April 3 election.

The poll revealed that 43% of the total population supported the ruling Fidesz-KDNP parties in April. DK was the most popular party in the opposition with 10% support, while Momentum was at 7%, Jobbik at 5%, and MSZP at 4% among this group. Dialogue and Our Homeland each won the support of 3% of the public, while LMP stood at 2% and MKKP at 1%.

However, among voters who had chosen a specific party to support, 55% declared their support for Fidesz-KDNP. This represented a large jump for the governing coalition, which was at 49% in Republikon’s March poll.

Meanwhile, the opposition continues to weaken among these voters, with DK at 12%, Momentum at 9%, Jobbik at 6%, and MSZP at 5%. Dialogue and Our Homeland were both at 4% support each, while LMP was at 3% and MKKP at 2%.

The poll was conducted between April 20-24 by telephone with 1,000 persons, was balanced for gender, age, educational attainment, and location for the adult population, and has a margin of error of 3.2%. [Telex]

Katalin Novák Takes Over Office of President of Hungary

Katalin Novák took over the office of the President of Hungary on Tuesday, with outgoing head of state János Áder receiving the new president at the entrance of the Sándor Palace in the morning, reported M1.

Novák was elected President of Hungary on March 10. Her inauguration on May 14 is expected to be a high-profile event, with a service in the Kálvin Square Reformed Church, an inauguration ceremony in Kossuth Lajos Square, and an open day in the Sándor Palace.

According to the Fundamental Law, the President of Hungary expresses the unity of the nation, guards the democratic functioning of the state organization, and is Commander-in-Chief of the Hungarian Armed Forces. The head of state is elected by the parliament for five years and is eligible for re-election once.

Katalin Novák, who will be Hungary’s sixth head of state since the end of the socialist era in 1989, introduced her staff on Monday. [HVG]

Biggest stories of the year in Hungarian politics (part 3)

picture of beach

“2021 wasn’t a quiet year by any means for Hungarian domestic politics,” writes Azonnali, which highlights its choices for the nine biggest political stories of the year.

In this third of a three-part series, we’ll highlight the final three of Azonnali’s picks for the top nine stories of the year in Hungarian politics.

You can find part one and part two of this series here.

Hungary’s opposition holds primary elections for joint challengers to Fidesz

Following Fidesz’s electoral victory in 2010 with a two-thirds majority then winning the next two elections (in 2014 and 2018) at similar proportions, Hungary’s opposition finally realized that it could only break the so-called “central power” of the ruling party with a united front and joint candidates.

This is because the new election law adopted by the ruling party in 2011 made it harder to form party alliances by getting rid of two-round elections in favor of a single round. In the previous two-round system, a candidate in one party could step down in favor of another candidate from an allied party in the second round, and thus maximum their overall chances of winning Parliamentary mandates.

The opposition first formed a united front for the municipal elections in 2019. Opposition candidates were able to defeat Fidesz-KDNP candidates in many places where there was a one-to-one matchup, including for the mayor of Budapest, which led to a similar decision to run joint candidates for the 2022 Parliamentary elections.

After a lot of preparatory work, the opposition finally managed to hold Hungary’s first real primary election this past fall with the participation of six opposition parties, generating much higher turnout than expected. In the two rounds held in September and October, voters chose the united opposition’s candidate for prime minister in addition to 106 individual candidates to face the Fidesz-KDNP candidate next year.

Most electoral districts saw a genuine battle between the candidates, as only 11 districts saw an unopposed candidate running for the oppostion’s nomination.

The Democratic Coalition (DK) won most electoral districts: 32 candidates from Ferenc Gyurcsány’s party will be on the ballot in 2022, followed by Jobbik with 29 candidates, then MSZP (18), Momentum (15), Dialogue (6), LMP (4), and the Everybody’s Hungary Movement with 2 candidates.

The two-round battle for the prime ministerial nomination saw two of the five candidates drop out after the first round: Jobbik’s Péter Jakab and András Fekete-Győr of Momentum didn’t make the cut, while DK’s Klára Dobrev, Gergely Karácsony of Dialogue, and Péter Márki-Zay of the Everybody’s Hungary Movement all got the nod to move on to the second round.

But in an unexpected move, Karácsony abruptly dropped out and endorsed Márki-Zay, who went on to defeat Dobrev in the second round and become the united opposition’s candidate for prime minister in the spring 2022 elections.

Pál Völner gets entangled in a corruption scandal

On December 13, the Prosecutor’s General’s Office surprised everyone by issuing a public statement requesting to waive the immunity of Pál Völner, State Secretary at the Ministry of Justice and Member of Parliament.

It was later revealed that Völner was accused of regularly receiving payments of 2-5 million Ft. (US $6,180-$15,450) to do the bidding of the president of the Hungarian Chamber of Judicial Officers.

Völner almost immediately resigned as state secretary after that and Parliament suspended his immunity the following week, allowing criminal proceedings to begin.

The opposition has also called on Justice Minister Judit Varga to resign over the matter, noting that she put her trusted deputy Völner in charge of authorizing the Pegasus spyware against civilians.

Völner thus becomes the fourth Fidesz Member of Parliament to be prosecuted since 2010, as Roland Mengyi was previously convicted of corruption, while György Simonka and István Boldog have also faced corruption charges in recent years.

Katalin Novák chosen as Fidesz’s candidate for head of state

Hungary’s Fundamental Law states that the President of Hungary has to be elected directly by Parliament for a five-year term, for a maximum of two terms.

Current President János Áder took office on May 10, 2012, meaning his term will expire on May 10, 2022. Áder’s successor will have to be decided before the Parliamentary elections in April 2022.

It is a near certainty that this person will be Katalin Novák, Minister without Portfolio for Family Affairs until the end of 2021, who Prime Minister Viktor Orbán unexpectedly announced at the end of December as the selected candidate for the ruling Fidesz-KDNP coalition.

The nomination of Novák was a surprise, as most observers believed that it would most likely be either former Minister of Justice László Trócsányi, now a Member of the European Parliament, or current House Speaker László Kövér, who also served as head of state following the resignation of Pál Schmitt.

Novák, 44, will be Hungary’s first woman head of state. If elected for two terms, she will still only be 54 when her term expires, and so could take over as party chair of Fidesz if Orbán decides to retire in the meantime.

Other aspects of Novák’s character undoubtedly endear her to the Prime Minister: she is a loyal member of Fidesz, having recently completed a term as the party’s vice-president, and so is expected to faithfully represent the party’s interests whether the opposition wins the election or whether Fidesz is re-elected.

[Azonnali][Photo by engin akyurt on Unsplash]