” . . . this is the kind of thing that happens in Putin’s Russia, except we are in Hungary.” – Péter Juhász, chairman, Együtt
In an emotional appeal made via live video stream from his smartphone this morning, Együtt (Together) chairman Péter Juhász (pictured) announced that Hungary’s State Audit Office (ÁSZ) intended to fine the small opposition party HUF 20 million (USD 77,000) for “prohibited campaign finance,” and called on supporters to contribute “a thousand forints or so” each so that the party could continue its work in the run-up to next year’s general election.
According to Juhász, ÁSZ had determined that for the past two years the party had been renting its 246-square-meter, fourth floor attic office at a “below market price” of HUF 508,000 (USD 2,000) a month.
Juhász explained that the party rented the office several years ago in response to an online advertisement, and that the rental agreement had passed two previous ÁSZ inspections without incident, prompting the politician to conclude that the fine was “politically ordered.”
“It is not with cheerful news that I greet you several days before the holidays because it turns out that ÁSZ, the State Audit Office, obviously for political reasons, plans to penalize Együtt HUF 20 million, that is HUF 10 million plus HUF 10 million, for a perfect pretext,” began the Együtt politician’s appeal.
Juhász then provided an impromptu walk through tour of the party’s “luxurious” office, beginning with a small meeting room followed by a 40-square-meter room where he said 11 people work, remarking sarcastically that he did not think ÁSZ employees worked in such a “luxurious environment.” He said that because the temperature reached as high as 40 degrees Celsius in summer, the party had installed an air-conditioner at its own expense.
He then proceeded to show the “luxurious kitchen”, which has no hot water, and a larger room used for press conferences and meetings of the party executive. The Együtt chairman then showed his own office: a small room he shares with three other members of the party’s executive board.
The tour ended with the room used by the party’s Váradi András Foundation, which, Juhász explained, is also used for other purposes.
“This is the luxurious real estate: an attic apartment on the fourth floor of a building with no lift, which ÁSZ claims we are renting for an unrealistic amount.
“We find this outrageous since it is obvious that ÁSZ is acting on political orders,” said Juhász, observing that the state body had inspected the same rental agreement each year for the previous two years without finding anything wrong. “Now a few months before the election it decides to penalize us HUF 20 million: HUF 10 million because allegedly (that is the difference between the real market value and what we have actually been paying), and another HUF 10 million as a fine.”
According to Juhász the penalty amounts to two months operating expenses, namely the money the party used to pay salaries and rent, and to fund various activities.”They want to make it impossible for us to prepare for the election”, said Juhász. “Practically every party apart from Fidesz has been penalized,” he said, vowing to protest the decision “at every international forum,” as by law “there is no possibility of appeal” in Hungary.
“The present situation is that we have the right to respond to the finding. But we have no doubt that, as in the case of Jobbik [also fined recently], there is little chance that they will accept our explanation. If they approve this, then in January, that is 15 days from now, they will withdraw via incasso the very funds from our account we need to operate for the next two months.”
Juhász said Együtt employees work for half what they could earn. “We want to work. It appears that with this they want to deprive us of our desire to do so.”
He concluded his appeal: “I am more and more certain that in 2018 we will unseat Fidesz because this is the kind of thing that happens in Putin’s Russia, except we are in Hungary.”