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Fidesz finally succeeds in getting its billboard bill passed

Henceforth Hungarian political parties may only run political billboard campaigns like this one during official campaign season.

The Fidesz-KDNP majority of the National Assembly has finally adopted the billboard bill by modifying certain regulations of the law protecting settlements that does not require a two-thirds parliamentary support, reports index.hu.

The National Assembly adopted the bill with 123 yes and 68 no votes during an extraordinary sitting on Friday. The adopted bill’s most important regulations are:

  • Organizations and legal persons, including political parties that receive grants from the state budget can only advertise for previous year’s list prices, preferential rates can only be achieved through public tendering.
  • Contracts of billboards must be immediately sent by the contracting parties to the affected authorities, who publish it on their websites.
  • Should the parties fail to hand over their contracts, authorities can remove the billboard within two days.
  • Violators can be fined HUF 150,000 (USD 541.95) per billboard.
  • Political billboards with already signed contracts can only be set up until 15 July this year.
  • The law does not apply to NGOs, so Fidesz’s satellite Civil Unity Forum (CÖF) can continue to conduct political billboard campaigns ordered by the government.

Last week the governing Fidesz-KDNP coalition failed to muster the two-thirds parliamentary support for the bill that prohibits political parties, primarily the radical-right Jobbik, from running political billboard campaigns outside of official election campaign periods. Since the bill was incomprehensible shorn of the parts that require two-thirds support, President János Áder sent it back to the National Assembly for amendment. With the death of Christian-Democrat (KDNP) MP György Rubovszky and the absence of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán who is in Brussels, the governing coalition was sure to fail a second time in securing a two-thirds majority. To bypass the two-thirds obligation, Fidesz resourcefully placed the regulations into a modification of the law protecting settlements, which needs only a relative majority.

Although the governing coalition easily passed the bill this time, it is hardly constitutional since modifications affecting parties’ finances can only be adopted with a two-thirds majority, according to Atv.hu. The bill adopted on Friday undoubtedly affects the areas of party financing and political advertisements. Leader of Fidesz’s parliamentary group Lajos Kósa spoke earlier openly about the political nature of the bill, namely that it is aimed to tackle corruption among political parties. Other Fidesz politicians openly spoke about how the bill targets Jobbik.

President Áder will have to choose whether to sign the law into effect or send it to the Constitutional Court for review. Even if Áder signs the law, it can be appealed to the Constitutional Court. However, until the Constitutional Court makes its verdict, the law will stay in effect, hindering Jobbik’s and other opposition parties’ ability to run billboard campaigns before the campaign period. The radical-right Jobbik and the green liberal Dialogue for Hungary (PM) parties already announced that they will appeal to the Constitutional Court, regardless of what Áder decides.

Fidesz included in the adopted bill some of the Socialist Party’s (MSZP) proposed modifications that had already been withdrawn at the insistence of László Botka, MSZP candidate for prime minister, in order to avoid the appearance of collaborating with Fidesz.

Balázs Pivarnyik :