Orbán gov’t spends HUF 1 billion proclaiming victory after invalid referendum

November 8, 2016

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What better way to celebrate losing a referendum than to spend another HUF 1 billion (USD 3.7 million) trying to convince the nation that you won? That is precisely what the government of Hungary is doing, reports Magyar Nemzet.

In response to an information request filed by the conservative print daily, the Cabinet Office of the Prime Minister led by propaganda minister Antal Rogán (not to be confused with the Office Overseeing the Office of the Prime Minister led by János Lázár), says it contracted with two companies belonging to Rogán’s neighbor, Csaba Csetényi, to produce the media campaign declaring the government’s victory in the referendum.

The two companies, Network 360 Reklámügynökség Kft. and Affiliate Network Kft., were contracted on September 27, less than one week before the referendum actually took place on October 2.

According to the propaganda ministry, the contract covers “activities related to the Cabinet Office of the Prime Minister’s public information campaign assignments,” such as

“We sent a message to Brussels: 98% NO! for the compulsory quota!”

According to Magyar Nemzet, there is no information regarding just how long the government plans on running this campaign. The contract technically ends on August 10, 2017, but it is unlikely the government will run the referendum ads through next summer.

Because of the vagueness of the contract, Magyar Nemzet does not rule out that the contract may also cover other campaigns, in a manner similar to others signed with Csetényi’s companies.

Over the past month, the government’s campaign has pumped money into the billboard sector, as well as pro-government media outlets.

The campaign itself is misleading because while it is true that 98 percent of the valid votes cast were in favor of the government’s anti-EU refugee quota position, less than 44 percent of eligible voters took part in the plebiscite. In other words, 5.7 million voters stayed at home on election day and 225,000 cast invalid votes.

According to Magyar Nemzet, the government’s decision to sign this latest contract with Csetényi’s companies suggests the government planned on keeping the campaign alive well beyond the date of the referendum.

The government’s propaganda campaign pre-referendum was not cheap either. According to its own figures, the government claims to have spent some HUF 7.5 billion on the campaign. However, because media materials began appearing well before the official campaign could technically begin, Magyar Nemzet puts the actual cost at somewhere between HUF 12-13 billion.

Csaba Csetényi’s companies reportedly charged a commission of 15 percent to place the government advertisements into media outlets, which also fared well. Pro-government outlets, including Andy Vajna’s TV2 group, pro-government print weekly Magyar Idők, and media outlets linked to “informal adviser to the prime minister” Árpád Habony, received the bulk of public (advertising) funds during the campaign.