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Latest News – May 17, 2022

Závecz: Support for Fidesz Has Increased Since Elections

Hungary’s ruling Fidesz-KDNP coaltion increased its base of support since its victory in the parliamentary elections last month, according to the latest Závecz Research poll. Echoing the results of Medián’s own poll from a few days ago, the latest poll provides evidence of the well-known post-election “bandwagon” effect.

Fidesz would receive 60% of the vote if elections were held now, according to the poll, which also shows DK as the strongest opposition party at 11% support and Our Homeland at 7%, which was their share of the vote in the election.

Závecz’s results largely coincide with what Medián found, but with one difference: while Závecz had the left-wing DK more popular than the far-right Our Homeland party, these results were flipped in the Medián poll.

The other parties in the opposition were either on the verge of the threshold to enter Parliament, with Jobbik, Momentum, and MSZP each getting 5% support, or below it, with LMP at 3% and Dialogue and MKKP both at 1%.

Taking a closer look at the demographics of the poll, Fidesz appears to be strong and stable throughout the country. However, the smaller the settlement, the more popular the party is: the governing party has the support of 35% of the adult population in Budapest, 39% in county seats, 50% in other rural cities, and 54% in small towns.

A similar phenomenon can be seen in terms of educational attainment and age: the older and less-educated a voter is, the more likely they are to support Fidesz. [Telex]

Hungarian Absentee Voter Registered to Vote in January, Only Put on Voter Roll After Election

Although a Hungarian citizen in the Netherlands registered with the National Election Office (NVI) in January to be able to vote by mail in the April election, they only received notification of having been put on the voter roll on May 13, reports 444.hu.

This means that four months were needed for NVI to send the notice, so the person was obviously unable to take part in the April 3 parliamentary elections. The voter did not even receive the necessary ballot package to vote by mail.

When the voter complained about the delay on April 1, they only received a generic response about “delivering ballot packages to registered foreign voters.” [HVG]

Miklós Hajnal to Run for Chair of Momentum

Momentum’s Miklós Hajnal announced his candidacy for party president in a Facebook post on Friday, writes Népszava.

The opposition politician, who won an individual race in Budapest’s Hegyvidék district in the April 3 election, had previously rejected claims alleging that he was interested in the post.

But with current president Anna Donáth announcing her pregnancy four days ago and declaring that she would not be running again for the position, Hajnal wrote that “a radically new situation has arisen in Momentum.”

A week ago, I didn’t think I’d be writing a post like this, and I wasn’t prepared for this role. (…) Many now truly see Momentum as the only ray of hope. As a new parliamentary actor, we can show a new direction to the opposition side. I believe in my community, and believe that overthrowing Fidesz requires a strong and decisive Momentum in the opposition space.

-stated Hajnal in his announcement post. [Népszava]

Refuting Orbán, Scientists Say EU Climate Policies Did Not Cause Energy Prices to Rise

Neither wind energy production nor EU climate policy raised market prices for natural gas or electricity, claim PhD economists Enikő Kácsor, András Mezősi and László Szabó from Corvinus University’s Regional Energy Economic Research Center (REKK) in Budapest.

By the end of 2021, the price of natural gas had increased more than ten times, while coal was four times higher compared to January 2020. In addition, the carbon dioxide quota had tripled during this period, and the price of electricity on the Hungarian stock exchange was four and a half times higher.

However, the REKK researchers cite a slowdown in Russian gas deliveries, which Moscow began even before the start of the war, as the primary and most important factor in the rise in gas prices. At the same time, they believe that Russia’s aggression in Ukraine will prevent prices from going back down.

Among reasons for higher natural gas and electricity prices are the post-Covid economic boom, increased global demand for liquefied natural gas, and the shutdown of gas extraction in the Dutch gas fields due to man-made earthquakes, the group noted.

Although the research institute did not directly criticize the Orbán government in its study, except in relation to the utility price cut policy, its findings appear to refute some of the main theories by the Fidesz government as to why energy prices have increased so much, particularly in regards to the European ETS carbon dioxide quota exchange system and the decrease in production by wind farms. [Népszava]

IPI: Media Council is Trying to “Silence” Tilos Rádió

The International Press Institute has expressed serious concerns about the decision by Hungary’s Media Council to revoke the frequency license for Tilos Rádió.

According to the organization, which advises the United Nations, UNESCO, and the Council of Europe:

Our organisations are concerned that this decision appears to be yet another disproportionate move by the Media Council, whose members were all nominated and appointed solely by the ruling party, which will force another independent voice off the country’s airwaves and further weaken media pluralism.

The group notes that the campaign against Tilos has an earlier precedent, as “the ruling bears clear parallels by the discriminatory decision last year to force the country’s last remaining major independent radio broadcaster Klubrádió off the airwaves.”

The National Media and Infocommunications Authority’s (NMHH) Media Council chose not to extend Tilos Rádió’s licence in April, citing certain violations.

Tilos, meaning “Forbidden,” has been broadcasting in Budapest for decades, first as a pirate radio station and later as the first non-profit independent radio station in Hungary. The station has been on the 90.3 MHz frequency since 2015, where it offers occasional government-critical commentary.

Station director Gábor Csabai told HVG that they had written the “world’s best tender,” but if “the media authorities still find something wrong with it, we’ll continue on the internet, as Klubrádió has done.” [HVG]

World is “Getting Tired” of Zelensky, Claims György Nógrádi

Although world leaders have been trying to persuade Vladimir Putin to end the war against Ukraine since it began on February 24, “security policy expert” György Nógrádi claims that they are actually getting fed up with Volodymyr Zelensky, as he said in an interview on the Ultrasound Youtube channel.

“The world is starting to get tired of Zelensky condemning everyone,” according to Nógrádi. While the Ukrainian President has not actually condemned “everyone,” he has expressed his harsh disapproval of countries like Hungary that are less enthusiastic about providing support for Ukraine’s defense through means such as arms transfers.

Nógrádi also reinforced the increasingly-popular narrative, which has become especially popular within right-wing circles, that the United States is fighting a proxy war through Ukraine. The security expert stated that the United States wouldn’t allow Ukraine to give up territory even if it wanted to. However, he said that Ukraine would “give up the war” if the U.S. requested it.

György Nógrádi, who is frequently consulted for expert opinion on Hungarian state-run television, claimed shortly after the war broke out in late February that Putin just wanted a “neutral” government in power in Kyiv, and that in fact “Ukraine started this war.” [Magyar Hang]

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]

Parliament to Hold Vote for Prime Minister on Monday

The National Assembly will hold its election for prime minister on May 16, according to an agenda proposal submitted by parliamentary speaker László Kövér.

A majority of parliamentary representatives is needed to elect the prime minister. Since the Fidesz-KDNP coalition holds more than two-thirds of seats in Parliament, there is little doubt that Viktor Orbán will be elected as prime minister of Hungary for the fifth time. Orbán is expected to give a speech after he takes the prime ministerial oath and the National Anthem is played.

An unofficial list of new government members has popped up in the media over the past few days, but a bill detailing the structure of the government and ministries must be submitted to Parliament first. Following this, the parliamentary committees will begin hearings for ministerial candidates. [Magyar Hang]

Poll: Hungarian Public Perceives Inflation at 22%

Consumer prices rose 9.5% in April compared to the same time last year, according to official inflation data from the Central Statistical Office. However, in a poll of 1,000 households conducted by GKI Economic Research, Hungarians perceived a 22% price increase, the research institute stated.

The researchers noted that the public’s “perception” is not based on facts but rather on perception, which could be strongly influenced by recent events.

Over the past four years, the difference between official inflation and polling-based perceived inflation has been over 11% per month on average and continues to increase, writes GKI. [444]

Croatian President Defends Orbán in Minor Diplomatic Scandal

A comment by Viktor Orbán caused a bit of a minor diplomatic kerfuffle with Croatia, reports Népszava. The Hungarian Prime Minister claimed in his interview with Kossuth Rádió on Friday that European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen had “thumbed her nose” at Hungary’s geographic limitations, as the country does not have access to a seaport to facilitate oil transport, or at least “they would have one if it hadn’t been taken away from them.”

Croatia strongly objected to this last statement, with the Croatian Foreign Ministry even summoning Hungary’s ambassador in Zagreb.

However, Croatian President Zoran Milanović wasn’t bothered all that much by the comments. Appearing to defend Orbán, Milanović released a statement to N1 television news claiming that:

Viktor Orbán is a colorful personality, the prime minister of a friendly neighboring country. He has a repertoire that includes such small provincial obessessions as the sea. I wouldn’t take them too seriously.

It was previously reported that Zoran Milanović considered Viktor Orbán a “clown.” [Népszava]

Fugitive Former PM Gruevski Thriving in Hungary

A new company owned by former North Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, a fugitive granted asylum in Hungary, made a profit of 5 million Ft (US $13,850) in a just months, writes MFor.

Gruevski’s I.C.I.C. Kft. was registered on 14 July 2021 in a family house in Pécel, with Gruevski as the owner as well as director of the business and management consulting firm. The company has no employees, listed 55,000 Ft. ($152) in expenses, and made an after-tax profit of 3.8 million Ft. ($10,526).

Nikola Gruevski was sentenced to two years in jail on corruption charges in May 2018, but fled to Hungary instead of serving his time. This past April, Gruevski was sentenced in Skopje to seven years in prison on charges of money laundering and illegal acquisition and concealment of state property.

Also in April, the United States put Gruevski on a sanctions list of persons the White House believes is undermining the peace and stability of the West Balkans. Before this, it had been reported that Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó regularly welcomed the former prime minister in his office to seek his advice. [Népszava]

Police May Have Wiretapped MP Hadházy Without Warrant

The Prosecutor General’s Office has received a report that investigators from the Budapest Police Headquarters (BRFK) had been surveilling people without warrants over the past few years, reports Blikk.

The tabloid claims that among the people targeted was independent MP Ákos Hadházy, who has parliamentary immunity from prosecution, as well as a well-known celebrity and several members of the “Park Protectors” group that protested cutting down trees and development in Budapest’s City Park.

According to the tabloid, the department head gave instructions for the surveillance. Investigators tracked the movements of the targeted individuals, documenting their work with photos and videos.

You can’t hid in the shadows and surrender. You have to show them that they can’t intimidate people.

-said Ákos Hadházy to the Hungarian daily in reaction to the news that he may have been a target of surveillance.

Police did not respond to Blikk‘s questions. [444]

Medián: Far-Right Our Homeland Now the Biggest Opposition Party

Median’s first opinion poll after the election on party preferences showed some remarkable results. The HVG-commissioned poll showed the governing Fidesz-KDNP coalition at 54% support, slightly higher than the 52% their party list received in the election, while the opposition stood at 34%, a decrease compared to their joint party list result of 36%.

Fidesz’s lead expanded to 57%, however, when respondents were asked which party they would vote for in “a soon-to-be-held election.”

But Our Homeland experienced a similar growth in support: after winning 5.88% of the party list vote, the far-right upstart party won over 9% of eligible voters, 8% of voters who have chosen a specific party, and 8% of the total voting population.

Support for Our Homeland among the entire population is just 1% higher than that of the Democratic Coalition, and 2% ahead of Momentum’s 6% support, although these differences are still within the margin of error. In addition, Our Homeland President László Toroczkai is the third-most popular politician among the entire voting population.

Medián notes that the phenomenon of Our Homeland’s rise is very similar to what was seen after Jobbik’s result in the 2009 European elections. At that time, Jobbik gained popularity after passing a certain threshold of support, as more people began to find it acceptable to openly express their sympathy for the formerly far-right party. [444]

Fidesz Voters Say Zelensky and USA More Responsible for War Than Putin

Fidesz voters prefer Putin to Western leaders, according to a Medián poll commissioned by 444.

On a 100-point scale, Hungary’s pro-government camp gives Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin the highest ratings among political leaders, 56 points and 47 points, respectively. Pope Francis is the only foreign leader who gets even higher marks from this group.

In addition, Fidesz supporters hold Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (74 out of 100 points) and the United States (75 out of 100 points) more responsible for the war in Ukraine than Vladimir Putin (70 out of 100 points).

The ratio is reversed among supporters of the political opposition. These voters blame Putin the most for the war (93 points), but they also say Viktor Orbán’s foreign policy (47 points) bears more responsibility than the Ukrainian leadership (39 points). [Telex]

János Stummer Bows Out of Jobbik

After losing his bid for the Jobbik presidency at their congress over the weekend, then laying out his differences with re-elected President Péter Jakab the next day, János Stummer has decided he’s had enough of the party.

Today I leave the Movement for the Better Hungary (Jobbik). At Jobbik’s elections on Saturday, I offered a clear political alternative to Jobbik’s delegates at the congress, but most of them said no to the patriotic policies and organizational renewal I had proposed.

-wrote János Stummer on Facebook, who only ended up with 27.8% of the vote for party president.

On Saturday, it became clear to me that the political community that I had been a member and builder of for the past 13 years did not want to continue on the road that is conducive to the future of my country. I have kept my distance from the policies and leadership practices of Péter Jakab and his narrrow group thus far, but I do not wish to be associated with him in the future.

-continued Stummer, who added that he had no intention of forming a new party or political movement.

Stummer headed the National Security Committee in the last parliamentary cycle, but did not win a seat in Parliament in this year’s elections after losing a bid for his Békécsaba-based district. [444]

CPAC Coming to Hungary Next Week

The Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) is coming to Budapest on May 19-20, according to a Twitter post by Balázs Orbán, the Prime Minister’s political director.

Fox News host Tucker Carlson will be the biggest name to appear from abroad, while Prime Minister Viktor Orbán will be the keynote speaker on the Hungarian side. Carlson, however, will only be attending remotely and won’t be making a personal appearance at the event.

The Budapest event will only be an adjunct CPAC, as the larger, annual event was previously held this past February in Florida. The original date for CPAC Hungary was in March, prior to the Hungarian elections, when they had hoped to lure former President Donald Trump to Budapest.

Beyond their ideological affinity for one other, Tucker Carlson and Viktor Orbán also have a connection through the television host’s father, lobbyist Richard Carlson. According to 444, the Orbán government hired the senior Carlson’s company, Policy Impact Stategic Communications, to lobby for it in Congress in the fall of 2018. [444]

Macron and Orbán Discuss Energy Security Issues

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán spoke by phone with French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday, Bertalan Havasi, the Prime Minister’s Press Chief, told news agency MTI.

The two leaders discussed issues related to Europe’s energy security, said the tight-lipped Havasi.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen took a surprise trip to Budapest on Monday to meet with Orbán and attempt to convince him to support energy sanctions against Russia.

Leaked information about the discussions has suggested that the EU will give a longer period for Hungary and other countries heavily dependent on Russian oil to transition to different sources, and will also reportedly provide financial resources to manage the process. [Magyar Hang]

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]

Donáth Confirms Pregnancy, Won’t Run for Momentum Presidency Again

“The news is true: I am expecting a child, so I won’t be running again to be president of Momentum,” wrote Anna Donáth on Facebook on Monday.

Tabloid Blikk had already leaked the news a few days ago that the Momentum President had told her fellow party members that she was expecting her first child, but she had not made a public statement on the matter until now.

Donáth also wrote in her post:

A wonderful thing is happening in my life: I will be a mother. In addition, I have had to reevaluate many things in terms of my personal and political future. I realized that I would not be able to handle the daily presidential duties of Momentum, which is getting stronger and stronger and has a bright future ahead of it, while facing the task of motherhood with its exceptionally exciting, but numerous unknown challenges.

The politician added:

But I’m not worried about Momentum. This community is much more than a single politican or leader. I won’t disappear either. As a Momentum politician, I will continue to do my best to create a just, humane Hungary.

-wrote Anna Donáth, who closed her post by thanking everyone for their good wishes and a request for privacy in the future. [Magyar Hang]

Ministry Forbids Baja From Making Local Public Transporation Free

Since the beginning of the year, residents of the southern Hungarian town of Baja have been able to use public transport free of charge. The result have been encouraging thus far, but the Ministry of Innovation and Technology (ITM) has deemed that the decision by the Baja municipality is illegal, writes ATV.

The ministry wrote to the city to inform them that rider fees could not be changed during the state of emergency, and gave the municipality two months to resolve the issue.

The municipality of Baja is trying to get Parliament to take up the issue and come up with appropriate legislation for such cases. [Telex]