PM proposal to suspend central funding to political parties triggers mixed response

Budapest, May 18 (MTI) – The governing Fidesz party believes it is right that, alongside families and businesses, political parties should also make a contribution to easing the impacts of the economic crisis, spokeswoman Gabriella Selmeczi said on Friday.

She commented on a proposal raised by Prime Minister Viktor Orban on Thursday that central support to parties could be suspended in 2013-14. She declined to provide more information, saying there were no details yet.

 

The prime minister’s spokesman Peter Szijjarto told the press on Friday that parties could finance their operations from membership fees for the next two years. He added that it was wrong that party financing should solely draw on state funds.

 

The opposition Socialists said that depriving parties of central funds would only “increase the opacity” of financing. Jozsef Tobias, a senior offical of the party, said that suspending the funds without transparent rules in place would give businesses an opportunity to exert influence on politics.

 

The small opposition LMP party said rather than suspending funding, more stringent party and campaign financing regulations should be put in place. LMP lawmaker Gergely Karacsony told a press conference that he hoped the prime minister’s idea was “nothing but his usual bluff”.

 

Karacsony suggested Fidesz’s own wealth was connected to growing corruption in the country, and that all businesses which support a political party now would cash in their favours once the party came to power.

 

He added that Hungary’s parliamentary parties had received about 3 billion forints from the central budget last year.

 

The Fidesz-allied Christian Democrats voiced support for the proposal, saying a temporary funding freeze to parties was justified by the country’s tough financial situation.

 

Ferenc Gyurcsany, leader of the leftist opposition Democratic Coalition (DK) and former prime minister, said Orban’s proposal would make official the one of the worst traditions of the past 22 years: clandestine party financing. He added that it is obvious that no party could self-finance its operations; if Fidesz claims it can, that is an admission that it had built a client empire over the years.

 

The radical nationalist Jobbik party declined to comment until more details were known.

 

Research institute Szazadveg said Fidesz would actually be the biggest loser if funds were scrapped, while the Hungarian Progressive Institute and Political Capital, two other think-tanks, said the opposition parties would lose most on the two-year freeze.

 

Transparency International (TI) said the plan would be costly and increase the risk of corruption and called for the whole of the financing system for political parties to be overhauled.

 

Prime Minister Viktor Orban made the proposal to suspend financial support for political parties from public funds at a Fidesz national electoral board meeting on Thursday.