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Thread: Democratic Backsliding in Hungary - Oligarchs Donate Media to a pro-government Conglomerate

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    Default Democratic Backsliding in Hungary - Oligarchs Donate Media to a pro-government Conglomerate

    From: https://apnews.com/39028d9c44b64e08a6609b60a8bf7a13
    Most of the publications donated to the foundation were acquired or founded by allies of Prime Minister Viktor Orban in the past few years. Some of them turned from relatively independent outlets into unabashed supporters of the government, with copious state and government advertising. Since Orban’s return to power in 2010, international studies consider media freedoms to have steadily declined in Hungary.

    The 10 companies which joined the foundation donated their media outlets and publications for free, even though their joint estimated value was possibly $100 million (88 million euros) or more.
    “The fact that such valuable firms were practically gifted to the foundation at the same time and in such an obviously coordinated way shows very well how the Orban system works,” said Daniel Pal Renyi, a journalist specializing in media matters at Hungary’s 444.hu news portal. “This demonstrates that the owners did not have real ownership rights, but were carrying out political tasks ... and ultimately it’s the political will that gets its way.”


    Ok. The populist right wing formula in Europe obviously goes like this. First, cripple by any means the constitutional court and the judiciary system. That takes the judiciary power out of the equation and with the executive and legislative in their hands, there is very little to stop them. Orbán and Kaczinsky both after getting strong enough in parliaments went along this path.
    http://www.iconnectblog.com/2017/12/...016-in-review/
    https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-40692318


    After that, create a legal system that will hugely favor pro-government media and stiffle independent journalism. Yup, Orbán already did this too:
    https://freedomhouse.org/report/free...s/2016/hungary.
    http://www.iwm.at/transit/transit-on...a-law-package/

    Basically, Hungary is slowly descending into a Russian-style oligarchic autocracy. Nowadays it is just a gutted democratic shell. Poland is on the same way, although the opposition there is somewhat stronger and the urban population more active in opposing these autocratic tendencies. The rest of the central European countries fare a little better, thanks to the coalition style governments that prevent one party to dismantle the democratic checks and balances system like that.

    Now Orbán's loyal oligarchs do not even feel a need to do this more subtly. They DONATED their news companies to the conglomerate. In such a small state as Hungary, this will be in essence a monopoly on information. All in Fidesz hands.

    Is this really something the rest of Europe should strive for?
    Last edited by Von Pressburg; December 02, 2018 at 05:10 AM.

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    Default Re: Democratic Backsliding in Hungary - Oligarchs Donate Media to a pro-government Conglomerate

    There's a lot of backsliding in the world right now as countries start sliding towards fascism unfortunately.

    Does Hungary have any immediately, long term allies nearby that can act as a force against such things?

    I only ask as I am truly ignorant on such issues in that part of Europe unfortunately.

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    Default Re: Democratic Backsliding in Hungary - Oligarchs Donate Media to a pro-government Conglomerate

    The biggest ally when it comes to upholding healthy democratic institutions is EU.

    But the media under Orbán's control portray the criticism from EU as a hostile revenge for them refusing migrants. They are deprived of any real self-reflection on the path their country is taking and just enforce this "David vs Goliath" besieged mentality. And on the other side, the current Polish government is doing its best to block any initiatives by the EU to effectively punish the Fidesz government in Hungary (and vice-versa). This example shows how the current EU is toothless when it comes to prevent their member states to descent into autocracy.

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    Default Re: Democratic Backsliding in Hungary - Oligarchs Donate Media to a pro-government Conglomerate

    Hungary's problem is also that it has no genuine „friends“ among its neighbours that might provide a view from the outside the Hungarians would take seriously: Hungarian neighbouring relations are always overshadowed by their lasting revisionist stance on Trianon, where they lost major swathes of land to all neighbours except Austria after WWI, leaving Hungarian minorities in most of the neighbouring countries that Hungary regularly threatens to use as troublemaking leverage - similar to how Putin uses post-Soviet Russian minorities everywhere.
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    Default Re: Democratic Backsliding in Hungary - Oligarchs Donate Media to a pro-government Conglomerate

    I don't see what the issue here is. Orban is democratically elected and one is always free to start a pro-EU outlet, it just won't be popular since Hungarians obviously disagree with its current direction.
    EU today is the greatest obstacle to democratic institution in Europe. Hungary's refusal to accept economic migrants is pretty much the reason why EU backs propaganda to undermine Hungary's democratically elected government. It seems like Central Europe is becoming a bulwark against Merkel-Junker-Macron's idiocy and their destructive policies.

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    Default Re: Democratic Backsliding in Hungary - Oligarchs Donate Media to a pro-government Conglomerate

    Getting democratically elected does not absolve any government of criticism, Heathen Hammer, especially when the goal of its controversial actions is to manipulate public opinion and ensure that the flow of information will be strictly controlled, during the next elections. Orban's history of censorship and media-usurpation is long and exhaustively documented. From a cynical perspective, his strategy is stellar. He cleverly exploited the incompetence of his predecessors and managed to win, thanks to his populist rhetoric and the strong revisionist feelings of the Hungarian society. Then, as Von Pressburg explained, he undermined the independence of the judiciary system and installed a regime rooted in kleptocracy and nepotism, thus solidifying his clan's political and financial power and confirming the collaboration of a significant portion of the country's elite. Distracting naive citizens with cheap talk about reclaiming the glory of Hungary and protecting its racial purity was probably the easiest part of the plan. After all, the target, the refugees threatening Magyar culture, was quantitatively insignificant (only a couple of hundreds) and politically powerless, which rendered them as the perfect scapegoats.

    On a funny note, I was always surprised how the Hungarian Prime-Minister evolved to become the Messiah of the far-right, considering the fact that, as he himself proudly mentions in the official bio of the Parliament website, was twice financed by George Soros. I was under the impression that George Soros was the agent of international Jewry and that his nefarious underlings, like Victor Orban, were busy conspiring to restore Bolshevism to the prominence it deserves. The plot thickens! But seriously, I am really curious about how our resident fans of Victor Orban interpret his cooperation with George Soros.
    Quote Originally Posted by Von Pressburg View Post
    The biggest ally when it comes to upholding healthy democratic institutions is EU.
    I wouldn't be so certain. Although the ultra-nationalists of Eastern Europe present themselves as the most determined opponents of what they ridiculously call as the European Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the truth is that these reactionary movements greatly benefited from the policy of the EU in their early steps. Under the pretext of decisively condemning totalitarianism and the violation of human rights, the European Union heartily encouraged the revisionism and irrational anti-Communism that would result into the resurgence of far-right activism. To put it summarily, very often Interwar fascist dictatorships were glorified and Nazi collaborators treated as the heroic victims of the Red Terror. Even in 2018, Věra Jourová, the current European Commissioner for Justice, justified the authoritarian actions of the Polish government and the country's Constitutional Court, which is essentially the puppet of the former. The relevant cases concerned the legal punishment of a trade unionist who wore a T-shirt with Karl Marx, of a university that organized a conference about the philosopher's 200-years birth anniversary, the prohibition of the Communist Party and the banning of its paper and digital media, as well as the destruction of historical monuments, which may have been erected by the Polish People's Republic, but they had actually nothing to do with the regime. Neither of them promoted overthrowing the parliamentary system, so her response is rather controversial, in my opinion.

    To be frank, I suspect that, in practice, the European Union is sometimes as sincere about its commitment to transparency and civic liberties as Orban about his endorsement of xenophobia, Antisemitism and the rest of far-right doctrines, i.e. almost zero. Orban will lose his grip on power, when the patience of the Hungarian people will have extinguished and no deflections towards Trianon and Mohács will save his career and the vicious circle will repeat itself, until a new populist takes his place. Despite his failures, corruption and authoritarianism, there is a limit, until which Hungary's liberties can be downgraded. Hungarian democracy will be seriously threatened, if social cohesion collapses, due to an economic crisis, which may allow some literally unrepentant Nazis, like the Jobbik thugs, to assume power, and who will make Fidesz rule (or maybe that of Open Society Foundations ) look suspiciously serene.
    Last edited by Abdülmecid I; December 02, 2018 at 01:20 PM.

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    Default Re: Democratic Backsliding in Hungary - Oligarchs Donate Media to a pro-government Conglomerate

    Quote Originally Posted by Von Pressburg View Post
    ...Nowadays it is just a gutted democratic shell. Poland is on the same way
    I have been saying this for years. Simply put, Eastern Europe suffers from an a lack of democratic tradition. crisis of constitutional democracy in post-Communist Europe: “Lands in-between” democracy and authoritarianism
    -----

    Quote Originally Posted by Abdülmecid I View Post
    Under the pretext of decisively condemning totalitarianism and the violation of human rights, the European Union heartily encouraged the revisionism and irrational anti-Communism
    Human rights agenda is not a "pretext", and - how come the EU heartily encouraged irrational anticommunism?
    Resolution 1481/2006 of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), issued on January 25, 2006 "strongly condemns crimes of totalitarian communist regimes". The European Parliament has proposed making 23 August a Europe-wide day of remembrance for 20th-century Nazi and Communist crimes.
    I suspect that the EU also encouraged irrational anti-Nazism.
    I also suspect that Nixon wasn't an irrational anti communist,just the EU.,"The Communists at least talk about the problems. We too often just talk about theCommunists."


    Quote Originally Posted by Abdülmecid I View Post
    I suspect that, in practice, the European Union is sometimes as sincere about its commitment to transparency and civic liberties as Orban about his endorsement of xenophobia, Antisemitism and the rest of far-right doctrines, i.e. almost zero
    So, who are the enemies of xenophobia,anti-semitism,anti-muslimism, and far right doctrines? Trump's US? Russia?
    in practice, EU's commitment is almost zero? : Poland was suspended from the European Network of Councils for the Judiciary because the body that nominates the country's judges is no longer seen as being independent of political control. Poland suspended from EU judicial organization – POLITICO

    Quote Originally Posted by Abdülmecid I View Post
    Even...Věra Jourová, the current European Commissioner for Justice, justified the authoritarian actions of the Polish government and the country's Constitutional Court, which is essentially the puppet of the former
    Citation needed. It's Time to Hit Poland in the Pocketbook – Foreign Policy
    Vera Jourova, an EU commissioner, suggested cutting EU funds for Poland, saying, “If a country gets money from the EU, it has to respect the rule of law.… I can’t imagine German or Swedish taxpayers would want their money spent on creating some kind of dictatorship in another EU country.”
    EU commissioner tells Hungarians to resist Orban - EUobserver
    European justice commissioner Vera Jourova on Monday (10 April) called on civil society to stand up to prime minister Viktor Orban's right-wing government and his broader efforts to create an illiberal democracy.
    Last year, the first vice president of the EU Frans Timmermans- link - stated in a press briefing in Brussels that the changes,
    ...would abolish any remaining judicial independence and put the judiciary under full political control of the government.… Judges will serve at the pleasure of the political leaders, and be dependent upon them, from their appointment to their pension.
    -----

    Even Trump's US...scolds Polish officials over claims journalists staged
    Last edited by Ludicus; December 02, 2018 at 05:48 PM.
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    Default Re: Democratic Backsliding in Hungary - Oligarchs Donate Media to a pro-government Conglomerate

    When is the next presidential election in Hungary?
    When is next election for the EU Comission?
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    Default Re: Democratic Backsliding in Hungary - Oligarchs Donate Media to a pro-government Conglomerate

    Quote Originally Posted by Abdülmecid I View Post
    Getting democratically elected does not absolve any government of criticism, Heathen Hammer, especially when the goal of its controversial actions is to manipulate public opinion and ensure that the flow of information will be strictly controlled, during the next elections. Orban's history of censorship and media-usurpation is long and exhaustively documented. From a cynical perspective, his strategy is stellar. He cleverly exploited the incompetence of his predecessors and managed to win, thanks to his populist rhetoric and the strong revisionist feelings of the Hungarian society. Then, as Von Pressburg explained, he undermined the independence of the judiciary system and installed a regime rooted in kleptocracy and nepotism, thus solidifying his clan's political and financial power and confirming the collaboration of a significant portion of the country's elite. Distracting naive citizens with cheap talk about reclaiming the glory of Hungary and protecting its racial purity was probably the easiest part of the plan. After all, the target, the refugees threatening Magyar culture, was quantitatively insignificant (only a couple of hundreds) and politically powerless, which rendered them as the perfect scapegoats.
    That's not really the case. if Hungarians don't like Orban they can always elect someone else. The issue at hand with the media is just a case of free market doing its thing, pro-EU media isn't suppressed it just isn't popular because population doesn't share its ideas, mainly because Central/Eastern Europeans have experience of being part of a previous super-state monstrosity that undermined their independence not even 30 years ago.
    On a funny note, I was always surprised how the Hungarian Prime-Minister evolved to become the Messiah of the far-right, considering the fact that, as he himself proudly mentions in the official bio of the Parliament website, was twice financed by George Soros. I was under the impression that George Soros was the agent of international Jewry and that his nefarious underlings, like Victor Orban, were busy conspiring to restore Bolshevism to the prominence it deserves. The plot thickens! But seriously, I am really curious about how our resident fans of Victor Orban interpret his cooperation with George Soros.
    Its just Orban's elegant machiavelian tactics that helped him trick Soros to finance him. I mean you can step on a turd (George Soros in this case), but if that turd reveals a vallet with thousands of dollars in it, then it isn't really that bad. Also Soros isn't really viewed as some kind of "devil", people just dislike him for being a corrupt oligarch with messianic complex who mainly spends funds on undermining sovereignty and security of Western countries to feed his pockets and ego. Basically Soros isn't as much of a villain as more of a mentally unstable chimp with a gun, which is why he is disliked by pretty much everyone except for the usual neoliberal crowd which views undermining of of sovereignity and security of Western countries as something to be celebrated as "progress", due to their lack of ability to critically view information that they get from corporate mass media.

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    Default Re: Democratic Backsliding in Hungary - Oligarchs Donate Media to a pro-government Conglomerate

    Quote Originally Posted by Heathen Hammer View Post
    if Hungarians don't like Orban they can always elect someone else.
    Until now. Elections are free, in the sense that the vote counts aren't nakedly rigged, and that's it. But the elections are unfair, the authoritarian government controls the radio news and media companies to such a degree that the opposition can't get a fair hearing. A few months ago- april- Fidesz won the elections, but the opposition never had a chance.
    Please read: Hungary, Parliamentary Elections, 8 April 2018: Statement of ... - OSCE


    (read the full report)

    The 8 April parliamentary elections were characterized by a pervasive overlap between state and ruling party resources, undermining contestants’ ability to compete on an equal basis. Voters had a wide range of political options but intimidating and xenophobic rhetoric, media bias and opaque campaign financing constricted the space for genuine political debate, hindering voters’ ability to make a fully-informed choice

    Hostile, intimidating... campaign rhetoric featured prominently in the campaign.
    In Venezuela, Maduro also hailed the "impeccable electoral process".

    -------
    Quote Originally Posted by Big War Bird View Post
    When is next election for the EU Comission?
    How it works- European Commission - Wikipedia
    The Commission was set up from the start to act as an independent supranational authority separate from governments; it has been described as "the only body paid to think European".[42] The members are proposed by their member state governments, one from each. However, they are bound to act independently – free from other influences such as those governments which appointed them. This is in contrast to the Council of the European Union, which represents governments, the European Parliament, which represents citizens, the Economic and Social Committee
    Economic and Social Committee, which represents organised civil society, and the Committee of the Regions, which represents local and regional authorities.[2]
    Through Article 17 of the Treaty on European Union the Commission has several responsibilities: to develop medium-term strategies; to draft legislation and arbitrate in the legislative process; to represent the EU in trade negotiations; to make rules and regulations, for example in competition policy; to draw up the budget of the European Union; and to scrutinise the implementation of the treaties and legislation.[43] The rules of procedure of the European Commission set out the Commission's operation and organisation.[8]
    European Parliament election, 2019 - Wikipedia
    May 2019.
    --
    As you should know by now, Bannon is on a far right mission to radicalize Europe. Steve Bannon in Europe: a dubious plan for the 2019 EU Parliament ...

    Next May is hugely important,” Bannon told...
    There really is a kind of pan-European far-right bloc forming, centering on leaders like Hungary’s Viktor Orbán and Italy’s Matteo Salvini. The growing influence of these politicians really does pose a threat to the coherence of the European Union.But the idea that a largely disgraced American political strategist will be the person to unite them in a fearful movement — with only a handful of staff members and unclear funding — is questionable at best
    Last edited by Ludicus; December 03, 2018 at 02:00 PM.
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    Abdülmecid I's Avatar ¡Ay Carmela!
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    Default Re: Democratic Backsliding in Hungary - Oligarchs Donate Media to a pro-government Conglomerate

    Quote Originally Posted by Heathen Hammer View Post
    Its just Orban's elegant machiavelian tactics that helped him trick Soros to finance him. I mean you can step on a turd (George Soros in this case), but if that turd reveals a vallet with thousands of dollars in it, then it isn't really that bad. Also Soros isn't really viewed as some kind of "devil", people just dislike him for being a corrupt oligarch with messianic complex who mainly spends funds on undermining sovereignty and security of Western countries to feed his pockets and ego. Basically Soros isn't as much of a villain as more of a mentally unstable chimp with a gun, which is why he is disliked by pretty much everyone except for the usual neoliberal crowd which views undermining of of sovereignity and security of Western countries as something to be celebrated as "progress", due to their lack of ability to critically view information that they get from corporate mass media.
    Oh, he definitely excels at Machiavellian tactics, but your conspiracy theory lacks any convincing value. Numerous cases of authoritarianism and corruption have already been cited, which indicate that the dear Prime-Minister is a sneaky rascal with zero calms of manipulating his voters, instead of draining that swamp in Budapest. Therefore, it is normal to assume that he exploits the vulnerability of George Soros, a Jew born in a traditionally Antisemitic country. After all, Orban has not hesitated to simultaneously pander to Antisemitism and to "Philosemitism", when the preferred scapegoat was Muslims.
    Quote Originally Posted by Ludicus View Post
    Human rights agenda is not a "pretext", and - how come the EU heartily encouraged irrational anticommunism?
    Resolution 1481/2006 of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), issued on January 25, 2006 "strongly condemns crimes of totalitarian communist regimes". The European Parliament has proposed making 23 August a Europe-wide day of remembrance for 20th-century Nazi and Communist crimes.
    I suspect that the EU also encouraged irrational anti-Nazism.
    I also suspect that Nixon wasn't an irrational anti communist,just the EU.,"The Communists at least talk about the problems. We too often just talk about theCommunists."
    So, who are the enemies of xenophobia,anti-semitism,anti-muslimism, and far right doctrines? Trump's US? Russia?
    in practice, EU's commitment is almost zero? : Poland was suspended from the European Network of Councils for the Judiciary because the body that nominates the country's judges is no longer seen as being independent of political control. Poland suspended from EU judicial organization – POLITICO
    Dunno, I kinda liked Nixon, but admittedly I'm not an expert at American domestic affairs... I read about Věra Jourová's comments in my weekly and unfortunately non-English newspaper, so there is only my word, as I have been unable to find an appropriate article in the Internet. She basically avoided to comment on the Polish government's political persecution and rampant destruction of historical monuments dedicated to human tragedies, by deflecting about how the duty of the European Union is to fight against "totalitarianism". Poland's temporary expulsion from the European Network of Councils, an institution designed to coordinate the judiciaries of the membership, without having any real influence, is approximately as meaningful as a verbal reprimand from the United Nations Secretary, i.e. none whatsoever. In any case, it is related to the government's attempt to control the third power and thus completely irrelevant to the political persecution and the far-right hysteria. On the contrary, as you yourself underlined, the European Union is determined to promote the unscientific horseshoe theory (fishhook theory for the win!), through its ambiguous tirades against what is only abstractly defined as totalitarian. Regardless of how severely this theory has undermined the efficiency of modern historiography, the ideological campaign of the European Union is also responsible for white-washing Nazi collaborators and downgrading the moral and human horror of the 3rd Reich and its allies to an unfortunate case of authoritarianism and... evil.

    It has significantly contributed to the growing revisionism of Eastern Europe and the emergence of right-wing extremist, even if now a couple of random commissioners are shocked by the not totally unexpected results. In the international scale of sincere resistance to Fascism/Nazism, I would rate the EU at Gustav Noske/Friedrich Erbert levels, not very far away from Franz von Papen. Quite progressive on the façade, but absolutely ready to cooperate with questionable individuals and groups in order to promote its interests. To summarize, the EU has neither the means nor the willpower to decisively combat against the increasing xenophobia and despotism of Eastern Europe. It's up to the Hungarian and Polish people to understand cheap populism and reactionary rhetoric will never solve their problems and improve their quality of life. Instead, they only allow professional charlatans, like Orban, to embezzle state funds and illegally usurp part of the executive, judiciary and lesiglative power, in order to enrich themselves and their court.
    Financial Times article
    Across the road from Viktor Orban’s modest farmhouse in his childhood village of Felcsut stands a temple to the Hungarian prime minister’s passion: football. With a slate roof and wooden supports evoking illustrations from Hungarian folklore, the Pancho Arena — from the nickname of Ferenc Puskas, widely regarded as the country’s greatest footballer — seats 3,800. The population of Felcsut, about 45km west of Budapest, is little more than 1,600. At the end of the road runs a narrow-gauge railway along which, three times a day, a little red tourist train chugs 6km to an even smaller village, Alcsutdoboz, where Mr Orban lived until he was 10. The train, closed in the 1970s but reopened last year with €2m EU funding, is largely empty most days. The railway and stadium have been pilloried by the prime minister’s critics as vanity projects. But they have something else in common. Both were built, in part, by Felcsut’s mayor, and a childhood friend of Mr Orban, Lorinc Meszaros. Until a few years ago, Mr Meszaros was a gas fitter.

    Thanks to winning state contracts, he jumped to number five in this year’s list of the wealthiest Hungarians compiled by website Napi.hu. In a year, his fortune soared from Ft23bn (€73m) to Ft120bn. Asked by reporters how he had grown his business faster than Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook, Mr Meszaros quipped, “Maybe I’m smarter.” Mr Meszaros is just one of several businessmen with close links to Mr Orban and his ruling Fidesz party whose wealth has surged since it came to power in 2010. Foreign scrutiny has largely focused on how Hungary’s government has dismantled democratic checks and balances, created what Mr Orban calls an “illiberal democracy” and embraced a hardline nationalist, anti-immigrant ideology. Yet as Fidesz has entrenched its control, a circle of wealthy businesspeople has arisen around the party and the prime minister — in essence, a group of loyalist “oligarchs”. The stadium in Felcsut village hosts a match between Real Madrid and Hungary's Puskas Academy teams during inauguration celebrations in April 2014.

    Anti-corruption campaigners, bankers and opposition politicians say Hungary has shifted to a form of “crony capitalism”, increasingly resembling models found farther east in ex-Soviet republics, where business success is intertwined with political power. Hungary’s government-favoured tycoons may be worth only hundreds of millions, not the billions of dollars of, say, Russia’s oligarch class. But critics say its economic structure is becoming a miniature version of Vladimir Putin’s Russia. The difference is that Hungary has built this system within the EU — in part, using EU funds. Much of the new Fidesz-linked business elite has achieved its success primarily through state contracts, about 60 per cent of which are funded by the EU. “Since 2010, going along with the distortion of the whole institutional system, basically Fidesz and oligarchs close to Fidesz have captured the state,” says Jozsef Peter Martin, executive director of Transparency International, the anti-corruption group, in Budapest. “The most worrying thing about Hungary’s development today is cronyism.” Until a few years ago, most Hungarians were aware of only one Fidesz oligarch, the publicity-shy Lajos Simicska. Mr Simicska went through school, army service and university with Mr Orban, then helped him build Fidesz from a 1980s pro-democracy youth movement into the party that now rules Hungary. The small tourist train in Felcsut which was built with €1.9m in EU money

    From the early 1990s, Mr Simicska used party money to create business ventures to fund Fidesz. He assembled a loyal media empire and, thanks largely to state contracts, a sprawling construction business. But after the two men fell out in 2015 — in part over attempts by Mr Orban to clip the wings of his ally — Mr Simicska was squeezed out of some media assets and stopped winning contracts. Opportunities opened for new, loyal businessmen. “Orban apparently doesn’t want another Simicska, someone as powerful as him,” says Andras Petho, editor of investigative website Direkt36. “So what we are seeing now is several little Simicskas.” Not so little. While the upper echelons of Hungary’s rich list remain dominated by business people who emerged in the 1990s, there have been several striking rises apart from Mr Meszaros. At 14th in Napi’s list this year with estimated wealth of €192m was Andy Vajna, a Hungarian-American who made some of his fortune as a Hollywood producer of films including Rambo and Total Recall. Mr Orban stayed with him as a young Fidesz MP on a US trip in the 1990s. Mr Vajna was appointed Hungary’s film commissioner by Mr Orban in 2011 and, having returned to Hungary, has replaced Mr Simicska as a leading pro-Fidesz media baron.

    At 23rd was Istvan Garancsi, another friend of Mr Orban and owner of his second-favourite football club, Videoton, with an €80m fortune — three times his worth when the prime minister came to power in 2010. Despite Mr Simicska’s fall from grace, he is Hungary’s 11th-richest man, worth €256m. A wealth list in last month’s Forbes Hungary magazine, with marginally different estimates, put all four men among Hungary’s top 21 richest. Fidesz’s large parliamentary majority and dominance of national and many regional institutions gives it several ways of helping favoured business people. Everything from lucrative state advertising to business licences can be channelled to friendly entrepreneurs. A study by two Hungarian academics this year found that state-owned companies account for 26 per cent of print advertising, 15 per cent of online advertising, and 7 per cent of TV ad revenues. Corruption perceptions, selected rankings In 2013, Mr Vajna was awarded five out of seven casino licences issued by the government. Mr Vajna also benefited from support from state-controlled development banks. The media tycoon received loans totalling €26m in 2015 and 2016 in part from Hungary’s Eximbank — which is supposed to finance exporters — to help acquire and develop TV2, Hungary’s second-largest TV channel. The government said it had changed a law in 2013 to allow the state bank to finance domestic companies to improve international competitiveness. But pro-Fidesz tycoons have prospered above all from public contracts, often part-financed by EU funds — of which Hungary is, in proportion to its gross domestic product, the EU’s largest recipient. The Corruption Research Center Budapest, a non-governmental organisation, analysed all public procurement contracts from 2010-16.

    It found four Fidesz-linked businessmen — Mr Simicska, Mr Meszaros, Mr Garancsi and Istvan Tiborcz, who is the prime minister’s son-in-law — together won 5 per cent of contracts by value, totalling €1.88bn. In 2013, the four won 12 per cent of all contracts; Mr Simicska’s companies alone won 11 per cent. Contracts won by the four men averaged 13 times the size of other contracts. The four also tended to face fewer competing bids than in other tenders — suggesting rivals might steer clear because they assumed the Fidesz-linked businessmen would win. Based on analysis of contracts since 2007, Transparency International, meanwhile, estimated in November 2015 that Hungarian public contracts were overpriced, on average, by 25 per cent compared with market prices. “Orban is a clever guy,” says Istvan Janos Toth, CRCB director. “He’s using European funds to build this cronyist regime.” Orban’s friends LORINC MESZAROS © Szilard Voros/estost.net Mayor of Orban’s home village of Felcsut, and an ex-school friend, the former gas fitter has interests ranging from construction, banking and media to agriculture, tourism and real estate. His construction company won a building quality prize for the football stadium it built in the town. ANDY VAJNA © Getty Images An ex-Hollywood producer of several blockbuster movies who got to know Orban, Vajna was made Hungary’s film commissioner in 2011 and set up a national film fund to finance local movies. He has expanded into casinos and Hungarian media, and owns TV2, the number two commercial TV station. Zoltan Kovacs, Hungary’s government spokesman, says the government had a “rule, within the confines of EU law, to help Hungarian companies be successful”. But he said all contracts were awarded on merit and it was “simply not true there is an unfair number of assignments that have been given to” businesspeople close to Fidesz. The four businessmen in the CRCB study and Mr Vajna did not respond to questions sent by the Financial Times.

    Mr Meszaros, in a 2014 interview, did thank “God, luck and Viktor Orban” for his achievements. “But,” he added, “I’ve never privatised anything, I’ve never embezzled and I’ve acquired everything with my own work and my own wits.” In an interview last month, Mr Meszaros rebuffed a question over whether he is a stroman, a Hungarian word similar to straw man and meaning proxy, for Mr Orban. “I think what I do speaks for itself, the way our company works doesn’t need an explanation and I think I contribute a lot,” he said. “How could I be [Mr Orban’s] proxy? It’s ridiculous.” Asked about the same issue in a parliamentary question last year by Gabor Vona, leader of the far-right Jobbik party, Mr Orban replied: “I never had a straw man, nor do I have one now, nor will I ever have one in the future.” Gyozo Orban, the father of Viktor Orban © Szilard Voros/estost.net Yet, despite their humble background in Felcsut, where his father was a labourer and agricultural engineer, the Orban family has had some business success. A scandal erupted during Mr Orban’s first prime ministerial term in 1999 when it emerged that a Fidesz- and Simicska-linked company had helped his father, Gyozo, and associates gain control of a privatised mine. In recent years, companies belonging to Mr Orban Senior and the prime minister’s two brothers have been reported to be supplying building materials to state construction projects.

    Asked about the report on Direkt36, Mr Orban hinted that since his father was not a contractor but an indirect supplier, there was no conflict of interest. Recommended Orban: Europe’s New Strongman, by Paul Lendvai EU set for unprecedented rebuke to Poland over ‘authoritarianism’ Orban calls for Hungarian spy agencies to probe ‘Soros empire’ of NGOs Mr Tiborcz, who married Mr Orban’s daughter Rahel in 2013, is also an up-and-coming businessman. A company he then controlled won partly EU-funded contracts totalling €65m in 2014 and 2015 to install LED street lights in Fidesz-run towns across Hungary. Olaf, the EU’s anti-corruption office, confirmed to the FT that it was investigating these contracts. Forbes Hungary in 2015 estimated the family’s wealth, excluding Mr Tiborcz, at €22m. Surprisingly, perhaps, the rise of Fidesz-linked businessmen is happening essentially in plain sight — indeed, with official approval. Andras Lanczi, rector of Budapest’s Corvinus University, and considered an unofficial ideologist for Fidesz, told the FT that “certainly, these are Hungarian oligarchs”. “But it is openly pursued as a policy, it is what [the government] wants,” he added. “Although [Mr Orban] has never said that, he perhaps encourages or allows that certain Hungarian entrepreneurs get really rich, to form the top of the Hungarian middle class.” Orban’s allies 1 ISTVAN GARANCSI © Szilard Voros/estost.net Owner of Videoton, one of Orban’s favourite football clubs, and often seen with him at games, Garansci has interests in construction, football, banking and natural gas trading. He controls a company that won a big construction contract for the 2017 World Swimming Championships in Budapest. ISTVAN TIBORCZ © Szilard Voros/estost.net Married to Orban’s daughter Rahel since 2013, Tiborcz’s Elios lighting company won partially EU-funded contracts worth €65m to install LED street lights in many Hungarian towns. He later sold his Elios stake and invested in land and real estate. Fidesz leaders have spoken of the need to create a national bourgeoisie, or what Mr Lanczi calls a “patriotic cohort of entrepreneurs”. What the ruling party is doing to advance its vision is, he says, no more corrupt than communist-era nationalisation or the post-communist privatisations of the 1990s.

    A senior Hungarian banker who asks not to be named counters that the patriotic entrepreneurs are not creating innovative businesses. “The new capitalist ruling class . . . make their money from the government, and competition for these [contracts] is far from fair, open or transparent.” Mr Martin of Transparency International says that while cronyism and graft were big problems during the eight-year socialist government before 2010, many Hungarians fail to appreciate how much more centralised corruption has become. “Corruption before 2010 was rather a dysfunction of the system,” he says. “Today, it’s a part of the system.” Political backlash: Opposition tries to make case against cronyism On billboards across Hungary in September posters appeared showing premier Viktor Orban with three businesspeople above a slogan in the typeface from the Godfather movie, reading: “Gangsters”. The group behind the campaign is Jobbik, the far-right party and main opposition to the ruling Fidesz party. The billboards were part of a move to reposition itself as a more centrist party — with a focus on fighting corruption. Adding spice — and a little cheek — to the campaign is the claim that Jobbik is allegedly being funded by Lajos Simicska, the tycoon and former Fidesz financial mastermind, who fell out with Mr Orban in 2015. Mr Simicska and Jobbik have denied financial links between them. The Jobbik connection has led Hungary’s government to argue that allegations it has unfairly favoured a particular group of businesspeople are fake news put out by its enemies. Fidesz was also enraged by a Jobbik poster campaign in April that showed Mr Orban with the same businesspeople, with the slogan: “Youwork. They steal.”

    The posters appeared on billboard sites belonging to two Simicska companies — prompting Fidesz to introduce tighter rules on political billboard campaigns. Hungary’s state audit office, run by a former Fidesz lawmaker, said this month that Jobbik’s billboards had violated campaign finance rules. It handed down preliminary penalties exceeding Ft660m (€2.1m) — enough to wipe out the party’s finances, Jobbik leaders say. Balint Magyar, author of Mafia State, which alleges Hungary has been “captured” by the Fidesz political and business elite, says a poll last year found three-quarters of respondents thought it at least conceivable that the premier was making money via frontmen. “The public feels this,” he says. “That it’s not a question of regular corruption, that it’s centrally led.

  12. #12
    Mithradates's Avatar Senator
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    Default Re: Democratic Backsliding in Hungary - Oligarchs Donate Media to a pro-government Conglomerate

    Quote Originally Posted by Von Pressburg View Post
    The biggest ally when it comes to upholding healthy democratic institutions is EU.

    But the media under Orbán's control portray the criticism from EU as a hostile revenge for them refusing migrants. They are deprived of any real self-reflection on the path their country is taking and just enforce this "David vs Goliath" besieged mentality. And on the other side, the current Polish government is doing its best to block any initiatives by the EU to effectively punish the Fidesz government in Hungary (and vice-versa). This example shows how the current EU is toothless when it comes to prevent their member states to descent into autocracy.
    Orban is friends with the German industry, Siemens, Daimler, BMW, Bosch, Volkswagen etc that makes him a friend of Germany, and that makes him the friend of the EU. Article 7 is a joke, it will never happen.
    Even the EPP isnt willing to kick his party out.

  13. #13

    Default Re: Democratic Backsliding in Hungary - Oligarchs Donate Media to a pro-government Conglomerate

    Quote Originally Posted by Abdülmecid I View Post
    Oh, he definitely excels at Machiavellian tactics, but your conspiracy theory lacks any convincing value. Numerous cases of authoritarianism and corruption have already been cited, which indicate that the dear Prime-Minister is a sneaky rascal with zero calms of manipulating his voters, instead of draining that swamp in Budapest. Therefore, it is normal to assume that he exploits the vulnerability of George Soros, a Jew born in a traditionally Antisemitic country. After all, Orban has not hesitated to simultaneously pander to Antisemitism and to "Philosemitism", when the preferred scapegoat was Muslims.
    The article you posted is behind a paywall. I do believe that Hungary may have issues with corruption, but that goes across the board in EU, and again pro-EU-crowd bringing this up seems like a case of pot calling kettle black. Which explains why all negative propaganda about Hungary comes down to Orban actually implementing policies that have his people's interests in mind. Objectively, Orban is more of a democrat then Merkel or Macron, let alone their owner Soros.
    Soros's background is largely irrelevant here, its his actions that make him viewed as a dangerous figure, and again in case of George Soros it is the mentally unstable chimp with the gun kind of dangerous. I recall posting his interview in a similar thread where the guy thinks he is some kind of progressive messiah. Every soccer mom out there keeps talking about need for gun control, but in reality what Western countries need is some kind of oligarch control, where loonies like our Georgie get put in a nice place with nurses and adult diapers, while his money distributed to cover the damages that his pet NGOs and politicians caused.

  14. #14

    Default Re: Democratic Backsliding in Hungary - Oligarchs Donate Media to a pro-government Conglomerate

    Quote Originally Posted by Heathen Hammer View Post
    The article you posted is behind a paywall. I do believe that Hungary may have issues with corruption, but that goes across the board in EU, and again pro-EU-crowd bringing this up seems like a case of pot calling kettle black. Which explains why all negative propaganda about Hungary comes down to Orban actually implementing policies that have his people's interests in mind. Objectively, Orban is more of a democrat then Merkel or Macron, let alone their owner Soros.
    Soros's background is largely irrelevant here, its his actions that make him viewed as a dangerous figure, and again in case of George Soros it is the mentally unstable chimp with the gun kind of dangerous. I recall posting his interview in a similar thread where the guy thinks he is some kind of progressive messiah. Every soccer mom out there keeps talking about need for gun control, but in reality what Western countries need is some kind of oligarch control, where loonies like our Georgie get put in a nice place with nurses and adult diapers, while his money distributed to cover the damages that his pet NGOs and politicians caused.
    Care to explain how dismantling the democratic checks and balances and massively controlling media in one country makes you more of a democrat? How is creating a mass of loyal oligarchs siphoning off their country's budget in Hungarians' interest?
    What exactly Orbán did in favor of Hungarians, except for the dubious achievements of closing borders to refugees (who do not want to live in Hungary anyway) and closing down a university?

  15. #15

    Default Re: Democratic Backsliding in Hungary - Oligarchs Donate Media to a pro-government Conglomerate

    https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/12/w...BF6puimKNPk3kw

    Oh Orbán actually outdone himself now. The guy created a whole new parallel court system under executive control. Just...great.

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