Originally published in French on the website of the Observatory of Journalism, 22 December 2022.
In Hungary, the fiasco of Péter Márki-Zay, an unsuccessful and extraordinarily clumsy candidate in the April 2022 parliamentary elections, is still unfolding. Last summer, Márki-Zay admitted that his political movement had received funds from an American NGO, which led to the opening of a judicial inquiry. And now, the Hungarian Parliament has just made public an intelligence report on this financial support. However, this issue has not been taken up by Western Europe’s mainstream media.
In total, we are talking about more than 7 million euros. At the centre of the financing scheme is an American NGO, Action for Democracy, with links to the National Endowment for Democracy, an organization known to act as a cover for the CIA. A fine array of great defenders of democracy are also behind the money pouring in from the USA: former Prime Minister Bajnai, a former intelligence minister under socialist Prime Minister Gyurcsány, an Israeli computer scientist, the international affairs advisor of the current eco-friendly socialist mayor of Budapest (who also works for Action for Democracy), and a consulting firm founded by former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.
However, the old socialist-liberal guard denies everything, and Márki-Zay takes full responsibility. He admits the reality of the financial support, but explains that it was given to his movement (MMM – Hungary’s Movement for All) and not to a party for an electoral campaign, so it was not done in violation of electoral law. But this argument is flawed, to say the least. How can it be that Márki-Zay’s coalition partners were not aware of sums that represent more than half of the money spent on the electoral campaign? Anyone who is aware of how an election campaign works knows that this is impossible.
Gross foreign interference
That the Hungarian opposition is supported from the United States is an open secret. Nevertheless, such an amount of money is astonishing. To take a European example, the US money given to the Hungarian opposition in the run-up to the April 2022 parliamentary elections amounts to about one-third of the legal spending limit for candidates in the second round of a French presidential election. This does not seem to move the usual mob of complainers about foreign (generally Russian) interference in elections, however. When the case is mentioned in the media, it is done in a very discreet way. Yet there is enough evidence to support the hypothesis of foreign interference in the Hungarian electoral process. Let’s imagine for a moment that such sums had been transferred to people close to Viktor Orbán from countries less reputable than the United States. What’s more, during an election campaign!
When the money comes from Washington and in the name of the fight for democracy, it is as if nothing is happening. Respect for the law then becomes not so important after all. All means are acceptable to bring down the terrible Orbán, including reports prepared in an amateur way by a Franco-German state television channel. In fact, the real opposition leaders knew very early in the campaign that Orbán would not fall in the April elections. Being able to blame everything on Márki-Zay’s ineptitude is a godsend for them. But why send such sums of money knowing that Orbán was not going to be beaten in April? Apart from being foreign interference, wasn’t this affair a way for the shadowy men of the Hungarian left to make a money grab? God knows, but such a hypothesis is much less shaky than the explanations given by those involved.
Mainstream media silence
Although Western Europe’s newspapers are usually quick to get passionate about Hungarian politics, they did not publish much on this topic. French reaction, for example, was limited to a single press review by Joël Le Pavous in the Courrier international, a newspaper that publishes French translations of articles published in the foreign press. There seems to be some kind of news blackout on the part of the usual defenders of democracy.