Fidesz expels journalists from Parliament for asking questions on Central Bank corruption scandal

Journalists associated with some of Hungary largest publications, including hvg.hu, index.hu and Népszabadság, were banned for an indefinite period of time from Parliament, after they videotaped Fidesz and Christian Democratic politicians in the hallway, peppering them with questions about one of the worst corruption scandals in recent Hungarian political history. In one of the videos, a completely silent and clearly uncomfortable László Kövér, the aggressive and authoritarian Fidesz party Speaker of Parliament, was asked a barrage of questions by journalists with video cameras, as he walked  down the corridor. The following morning, Mr. Kövér’s office indicated that several journalists were barred from reporting in Parliament, ostensibly because they had contravened a decree dating back to 2013, which prohibits filming in certain areas of the building.

“Despite multiple warnings from the representatives of the Press Office, the journalist continued with his activities and refused to leave the area,” noted Mr. Kövér’s office of Norbert Fekete, a reporter affiliated with the hvg.hu news site. Journalists from index.hu were also barred for the same reason, but the site noted that the area that the Press Office requested that the media representatives remain in would have made it impossible for them to ask members of parliament questions about the shady dealings of the Governor of the Hungarian National Bank (MNB),  György Matolcsy.

This is the ominous video that got Norbert Fekete barred from Parliament:

György Matolcsy, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s former Minister of the Economy and current Governor of the Hungarian National Bank, appears to have allowed for 736 million forints ($3.3 million)  in public funds to pass to private business interests co-owned by the governor’s own cousin, Tamás Szemerey. Some of these funds ended up with the publisher of the VS.hu news site; the editor-in-chief and 12 journalists affiliated with the site have since resigned in protest.

Friends of Mr. Matolcsy, and of Fidesz in general, were also beneficiaries of millions of dollars in public funds from foundations operated by the Central Bank. For instance, Lőrinc Mészáros–the Fidesz mayor of Prime Minister Orbán’s home town of Felcsút, who has inexplicably become one of the wealthiest people in Hungary–is affiliated with a company called Magyar Építő Zrt. This construction firm was awarded multiple contracts, totaling billions of forints. For instance, the company was provided with the equivalent of $4.5 million to oversee one such construction project.

The Hungarian National Bank, after being asked if Mr. Matolcsy planned to resign in the wake of the scandal, argued that it has no right to “influence the decision-making process surrounding specific grant applications.” As such, it is perhaps merely coincidental that billions of forints in public funds happened to land with relatives and friends of the governor. Mr. Matolcsy has no intention of resigning. Most Fidesz politicians, when asked about the scandal, either refused to respond to media queries, or suggested that nothing illegal had occurred, whilst leaving open the door to the suggestion that the activities of the Central Bank and its foundations  were, at minimum, unethical.

György Matolcsy. Photo: AFP.

György Matolcsy. Photo: AFP.

The Hungarian Socialist Party (MSZP), announced that it would be initiating a parliamentary investigation into how foundations affiliated with the Hungarian National Bank managed to effectively turn billions of forints in public funds into private monies that landed in the coffers of companies and businesses generally associated with Fidesz.

Ferenc Gyurcsány, Hungary’s former prime minister from 2004 to 2009, and leader of the centre-left Democratic Coalition (DK), noted in an ATV interview that he would have been “strung up on a lamp post for one tenth of what is happening now.”

“We simply have to declare that you, dear gentlemen, are criminals,” noted Mr. Gyurcsány.

One wonders when corruption on such a massive scale will finally wake many undecided Hungarians from their political slumber. But it is equally possible, that the sheer scale of the corruption in and around the Hungarian National Bank is so vast, that it is all but incomprehensible or perhaps overwhelming for the average Hungarian. Sometimes instances of petty corruption are more easily understandable and can be better contextualized. The widespread and systematic pillaging of public funds by the foundations of the Hungarian National Bank are far from petty–they are indicative of the criminal nature of the Fidesz regime.

4 Comments

  1. Charlie London says:

    Astonishing!

    (Not really – we are suffering corruption fatique over here. The systemic thieving has gained such a momentum that Hungarians don’t give a toss anymore – if ever they did.)

    As the ‘elite’ plunder the vaults – the health service collapses.

    And collapses.

    And collapses.

    • Charlie London says:

      So dr Fodor? Do you still think that the Hungarian health service is the envy of the world – like you claimed on here before?

      dr Fodor Habil?

      Calling dr Fodor Habil?

      Where is a ‘doctor’ when you need one?

  2. I am also waiting for the good doctor to diagnose what’s going on with his favourite dictatorship. We need some of his moral indignation! Please, Dr. Habil, please–come out, come out, wherever you are!

  3. András B. Göllner says:

    The political slumber of the general public in Hungary, its quiet acquiescence in the self serving and corrupt political machinations of its elites, is a political- cultural inheritance, a product of socialization, that has deep roots extending back in time, for many generations. It’s the inattention of the post-Communist liberal class to these roots, and the the active cultivation of them by Orbán, that brought Hungary to its current position. It is THE best known, most infamous of the EU member states, where justice, constitutionalism, and the rule of law, are daily violated. The Orbán government abhors public scrutiny, which is the cornerstone of parliamentary sovereignty. The behavior of the President of Hungary’s current Parliament, Mr Kövér, is a testimony to this assertion and to the arrogance of power.

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