The Government Information Center (KTK) has released the data detailing how much the government spent on its massive media campaign for the anti-EU refugee resettlement quota referendum, reports Index.hu.
Minister Antal Rogán, who was tasked with coordinating the campaign, responded in late August to questions from left-wing daily Népszabadság about its total costs, saying that “no more than HUF 3.9 billion is available for the entire communication campaign contract. The contractor is the United Advertising Consortium. We still cannot say whether, during the course of the referendum campaign, the government will exhaust these funds.”
However, Hungarian Socialist Party (MSZP) politician Tamás Harongozó claimed on ATV that Rogán was lying, and in fact HUF 11.3 billion had been spent on the campaign as of the Tuesday before the October 2 referendum. This figure was then widely reported in the opposition media.
Now, the KTK has released the official total of how much public money the government spent on its one-sided television, radio, internet, leaflet and press campaign.
“The government spent a net total of HUF 5.9 billion on information campaigns and political advertisements concerning the referendum,” wrote the KTK. This adds up to a gross HUF 7.49 billion.
“The government spent HUF 875 million on information letters and publications sent to households concerning the referendum.” This is a gross HUF 1.1 billion.
It is not clear whether this figure includes the cost of millions of letters sent by local governments to voters only days before the referendum urging them to vote “no.”
The grand total amounts to HUF 8.6 billion (USD 31.4 million), or roughly USD 9.5o for every “no” vote cast on Sunday. This is well over twice the figure quoted by “propaganda minister” Rogán and his Cabinet Office of the Prime Minister. A further HUF 4.5 billion was spent on technical expenses connected to the referendum itself including ballots, vote counters, etc., adding up to HUF 13.1 billion (USD 47.8 million.)
The KTK defended the unprecedented campaign expenditure by stating alongside the released figures that “this total is dwarfed compared to the costs that the country would have to pay if Brussels enacts its resettlement program,” adding that the left-wing government spent HUF 84 billion on communication between 2006 and 2010.
As we wrote earlier, the government used public money to fund its one-sided campaign and allocated no funds for counter-campaigning by the opposition. Even when the official campaign expenditure figure was said to be HUF 3.9 billion, we calculated that the government had outspent the opposition by a margin of 40:1. This figure is now looking closer to 100:1.
Still, the enormous expenditure didn’t have quite the desired effect. Only 43 percent of eligible voters bothered to turn out, meaning that 5 million people weren’t persuaded by the countrywide propaganda to go to the polls.