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Another reason why state funding of political parties is a bad idea

“Viktor Orban ruins his rivals with power grab”, the Times reports.

Under a regime described by critics as the “omnipotence law”, Mr Orban’s government is able to take sweeping measures to tackle the coronavirus epidemic without parliamentary approval.

Within days of the reform it announced that parties, banks, multinational corporations and local councils would be obliged to pay into a £3.3 billion national fund designed to cushion the blow to the Hungarian economy.

Political parties must hand over half of the grants they receive from the state, a total of about £2.8 million, Gergely Gulyas, one of Mr Orban’s closest ministerial allies, said. The measure will apply to all Hungarian parties, including Fidesz, the prime minister’s party, which is backed by businesses that have benefited from public contracts. Some of its struggling rivals, however, are heavily reliant on public funding. Jobbik, the largest opposition party in the National Assembly, is still reeling from a fine of nearly £1 million after auditors found that it had underpaid for billboard advertising.

Emphasis added. From what little I know of Hungarian politics, the Jobbik and Fidesz parties seem to have swapped bodies. I hold no brief for either. But I can sympathise with the plight of anybody – or any body – that suddenly has their financial support kicked away. Unfortunately that is what happens when the state pays your bills: what the state gives, the state can take away. Hence the “self ownership” tag on this post.

As I wrote the above, I remembered having written something very similar before. That post was about the last of the Kalahari Bushmen. The plight of the last opposition parties of Hungary is not quite as desperate as theirs, but give it time.

12 comments to Another reason why state funding of political parties is a bad idea

  • Mr Ecks

    Orban has long had a dark side of looking for tyrannical power. He will not be the last to take such a step worldwide given the chaos the coro-panic and economic collapse are spreading.

  • Paul Marks

    Jobbik are the successors of the Arrow Cross in Hungary during World War II. As for economic policy – they think that Hungarian wages can be the same as German wages by political order.

    If they are “principled conservatives” (as they claim) then so is “Central Office” down in London.

    As for the taxpayer funding of political parties – it should not exist.

    I do not trust Prime Minister Orban (not at all) – but the alternatives to him in Hungary (both on the “the right” and “the left” – such as the alliance of leftists that now control Budapest) are worse than he is.

    I have taken to wearing a certain blue and white badge – to see how people react to it.

    I know how Jobbik would react to it – and their “opposites” on the far left would react IN THE SAME WAY.

  • staghounds

    “…party, which is backed by businesses that have benefited from public contracts.”

    Like every other political party, and politician, since they first began.

  • I have taken to wearing a certain blue and white badge – to see how people react to it.

    Absolutely right. More of us Sassenachs should be wearing the Saltire to show support for the Union and opposition to Wee Jimmy Sturgeon and her band of demented porridge wogs.

    Up Scotland, Up the Union and down with the SNP!

  • Mr Ed

    Within days of the reform it announced that parties, banks, multinational corporations and local councils would be obliged to pay into a £3.3 billion national fund designed to cushion the blow to the Hungarian economy.

    So do business with us or in our country, and to save the economy we will steal from you, or if we have stolen from others to give you money, we will steal it back. That’s going to be hard to reconcile with EU law as I have understood it, but doubtless the EU will look the other way and mutter something. Hungary is probably a test bed that other EU governments are watching, as the Spanish Commies flex their muscles. Time to sell, methinks.

    Re the Arrow Cross, the Swedish WW2 diplomat Per Anger (colleague of Wallenberg) wrote about how they raided the Swiss Consulate in the dying days of WW2 as the Soviets drew closer, and were about to hang the Swiss Consul and he said something to the effect of ‘Go ahead, but I guarantee you that tomorrow your man in Zurich will hang too.” and they let him go and ran away, cowardly scum that they are, but at least capable of reason.

  • Rob

    But if we have Progressive State party funding, then funding could only ever be withdrawn from the Bad People, not the Good ones.

  • Paul Marks

    Rob – I note the ironic intent of your comment.

    Staghounds – your cynicism (as so often) has some truth in it.

    Mr Ed – excellent! Of course Mr Oban could reply “I am only taking from foreign business enterprises – not Hungarian ones”, but then why should these foreign people do business in Hungary at all? It might seem to be a place to avoid. The “National Fund” is not likely to end well – not that economic policy is better here (it is not).

    John Galt – not quite the blue and white badge I am wearing, but I see your point.

  • It is reported that Soros and Orban really don’t like each other – and that Soros remains interested in the politics of his native Hungary. A one-million pound fine would be petty change to Soros. Of course, he may be putting his money elsewhere in Hungarian politics – but whoever gets it certainly would not need state funding though they doubtless support state funding.

    IIUC, Orban has reduced the state’s subventions to political parties by half, at a time when quarantining means various forms of campaigning will not be done. While it can certainly be seen as one way for a governing party to ensure the crisis does not go wholly to waste, it is also a fairly obvious way to save at a time of sudden and unusual government expenditure. Thinking that Orban’s motives are probably not unmixed is compatible with thinking this could be a very defensible saving – and cutting 100% of state payments to parties could be an even more defensible saving.

    While Soros remains an opponent of Orban, it seems unlikely that opposition in Hungary could die from being starved of state cash.

  • John Galt – not quite the blue and white badge I am wearing, but I see your point.

    Might as well have a sense of humour about it while seeking Love in the time of Coronachan.

  • Snorri Godhi

    John Galt – not quite the blue and white badge I am wearing, but I see your point.

    That still leaves a lot of possibilities open.

  • Paul Marks

    If I was Prime Minister Orban…..

    I would get rid of ALL taxpaying funding for political parties.

    And strictly forbid any funding of political activity in Hungary that is not from Hungarian citizens actually living in Hungary.

    As for George Soros – his Marxist son and the Marxist associates of his son have taken over.

    Mr Soros is, now, a very old man – he is not in charge any more.

  • Shlomo Maistre

    One hundred years hence, Viktor Orban will be remembered as the man who saved Hungary.

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