Opposition political movement under police investigation after former candidate admits that huge sums of money from abroad influenced the Left’s election campaign

Somebody’s got to be wondering: Was all that money worth it?

The alliance of left-wing parties that ran in the 2022 parliamentary elections benefited from substantial foreign funding through Péter Márki-Zay’s Everybody’s Hungary Movement (MMM), according to Hungarian daily Magyar Nemzet.

Police have now opened an official investigation into whether the movement headed by the opposition’s candidate for prime minister may have been involved in fraudulent misuse of funds or money laundering, Magyar Nemzet reported.

Paradoxically, Péter Márki-Zay, the left’s candidate for prime minister, has not denied the reports that MMM received billions of forints in campaign funding from abroad, but he rejected accusations of illicit party funding, saying that the money was given to “change Hungarian culture.” His movement, he said, was not subject to party funding rules, as it was not registered as a party and had never “behaved” as a party. Márki-Zay, however, was the official candidate for prime minister of the opposition coalition during the campaign period.

The article in Magyar Nemzet also asserts that the opposition campaign came under the influence of foreign experts funded by these foreign interests. This influence shaped their campaign’s strategic decisions, including their position on the most important issue of the 2022 elections, the Russian-Ukrainian war.

Under Hungarian law, according to Zoltán Lomnici, a constitutional lawyer, a political party is forbidden from accepting anonymous donations or financial contributions from foreign organizations or non-Hungarian natural persons.

In addition, there are serious concerns that, for the first time since the democratic changes in 1989-90, the leader of the left-wing list was not backed by a party or party foundation, but by a civil organization, which is subject to more permissive financial rules than parties, and that, for example, in the case of associations, the financial control mechanism of the State Audit Office is not enforced.

The work of NGOs and foreign funding have become a subject of growing concern in many countries, especially on questions of political legitimacy, accountability and the financial resources needed for their operation. In this context, different national regulatory solutions have been developed on the possibilities for state control over foreign NGOs.

For example, since 2013 the Austrian state has made it compulsory for some NGOs in the lobby category to register as lobbyists, and those who fail to do so are fined. Accordingly, Amnesty International, Greenpeace and WWF, among others, are registered as lobbyists. Similar rules apply in the United States, Germany and Israel. In these countries, NGOs - like political parties and lobby firms - are obliged to report the origin of their funds and the identity of their donors.

The State Audit Office or the competent investigating authority has the power to fully investigate what has happened in Hungary. Apart from possibly violating the law, the case appears to be a blatant attempt to interfere in Hungarian elections by interests outside of Hungary. The scandal also raises questions of sovereignty and national security.

In the light of the above, whether it is a case of illicit party funding or non-transparent foreign funding of an “NGO,” it may bring significant legal consequences.

And serious questions remain. The NGO in question has denied accusations of funding a political movement. However, Márki-Zay stated quite clearly in the media that his movement had received significant funding from the NGO. Where exactly did the financial support come from, how much was it exactly and what was it used for?

Photo credit: Origo, MTI / MTVA