In addition to Jobbik, the State Audit Office is about to fine Politics Can Be Different, Democratic Coalition, Együtt and Dialogue for Hungary for accepting “forbidden campaign contributions”, merce.hu reports.
All four opposition parties confirmed merce.hu’s information that the State Audit Office (ÁSZ) is about to fine them for alleged “prohibited campaign finance” in the 2015-2016 period. According to merce.hu the fines will range from HUF 5 million (USD 19,000) to HUF 10 million (USD 38,000). The online news site says the ÁSZ action offers no justification or explanation of any kind.
Microparties Együtt (Together) and Dialogue for Hungary (PM) are both about to be fined for allegedly renting office space at below market prices. Inexplicably, ÁSZ found nothing the matter with these lease agreements during previous inspections.
PM is also to be fined for a 2016 ad campaign conducted together with Lajos Bokros’ Movement for a Modern Hungary, ÁSZ having determined that the parties contracted with advertisers at below market prices. PM claims it purchased the advertisements through a well-known middleman and never directly contacted the advertising company.
Democratic Coalition (DK) party director László Sebián-Petroszki told merce.hu that ÁSZ inspected the contracts of 25 offices in the countryside and two central offices, but it was not clear from ÁSZ’s report which contracts were found to constitute “forbidden campaign finance.” Sebián-Petroszki noted that DK has been renting the recently inspected offices since 2014, and the party has renovated some of the properties since then, which naturally raised their value. According to the DK party director, ÁSZ should be glad that parties do not rent offices for exorbitant prices. He said the fine was merely a continuation of the campaign against Jobbik, and was intended to hamper the ability of opposition parties to run candidates in next year’s general election.
Politics Can Be Different (LMP) is also to be fined for an allegedly irregular office lease agreement. However, as the party has not received ÁSZ’s report yet, it declined to comment.
ÁSZ, which is charged with auditing party finances as well as those of some 700 state organs, broke a more than 25-year-old tradition of not touching political parties’ campaign spendings when it fined Jobbik HUF 660 million (USD 2.5 million) in early December for accepting “forbidden campaign contributions” from oligarch Lajos Simicska in the form of heavily discounted billboard advertisements. The decision, Jobbik politicians argued, might hinder the party’s ability to run in the 2018 election next April or May.
The notified parties have 15 days to review and comment on the ÁSZ report. However, as there is no right of appeal, the parties will likely have little choice but to pay the fines in January.