Government of Hungary attempts to distance itself from MNB secrecy bill

March 11, 2016

Tallai

The government is lying about the controversial National Bank of Hungary (MNB) secrecy bill rushed through and passed in parliament by the ruling Fidesz-KDNP coalition. The bill excuses the MNB from disclosing how it is spending some USD 900 million in public funds through foundations founded and endowed by the central bank.

We do what we’re told

The bill’s authors, Fidesz MPs Erik Bánki and Roland Mengyi, had introduced the bill with great urgency. It was submitted on a Monday, February 29, and adopted the following day thanks to the Fidesz-KDNP political alliance enjoying an absolute majority in parliament and a high degree of discipline when it comes to casting votes along party lines.

The controversial legislation drew so much adverse media attention and criticism from civil rights groups, anti-corruption watchdogs and the public at large that the government actually made an effort to distance itself from the bill after it was approved by parliament.

Eager to reinforce the notion that the National Assembly, the National Bank of Hungary and the Constitutional Court are actually independent of the government, Minister Overseeing the Office of the Prime Minister János Lázár and government spokesman Zoltán Kovács actually went so far as to claim after the fact that the government had “no position” on the controversial law.

Official minutes suggest otherwise

According to the official minutes of the parliamentary debate that took place over the bill (reproduced below), Ministry for National Economy undersecretary András Tállai (who, like so many other undersecretaries also happens to be a Fidesz MP) told parliament that “the government supports the proposal.”

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(Translation:  “ANDRÁS TALLAI, Ministry of National Economy undersecretary: Honorable Speaker, National Assembly, my fellow representatives, and author of the proposal! The government supports this proposal. Thank you for your esteemed attention. (applause from the governing parties’ rows of seats. – Interjections from the MSZP rows of seats, including:  Oh! – Gosh!”)

Despite openly disagreeing with the notion that public funds become private funds at such time government bodies invest them in public companies or foundations, National Assembly President László Kövér (Fidesz) signed the bill and sent it over to the Sándor Palace for President János Áder (Fidesz) to sign. As predicted, Áder forwarded the law along with the bill classifying postal service contracts adopted the same day to the Constitutional Court for constitutional review.  His reasons for doing so can be viewed here (MNB secrecy bill) and here (Postal Service secrecy bill).

The only question now is whether the Constitutional Court finds the bills violate Hungary’s Basic Law.  If so, then presumably Áder will return them to parliament for further debate.  Otherwise he is likely to sign them, having conscientiously discharged his duty as President of the former Republic of Hungary.