Viktor Orbán defends son-in-law’s right to win public contracts

May 28, 2015

orban

Tiborcz and Orbán drinking to free enterprise and a level playing field.

Viktor Orbán appeared in the Hungarian parliament on Tuesday to participate in discussions on the role of nepotism in the awarding of public procurement tenders, Hungary’s agreement to join the European Union and the death penalty.

Politics Can Be Different (LMP) parliamentarian András Schiffer asked about a company called “Elios” which is owned by Prime Minister Orbán’s son-in-law, István Tiborcz. Schiffer wanted to know how it is possible for a single company to win 19 public lighting tenders since 2010, in 8 cases without competition.

Schiffer asked Orbán whether he personally played a role in the call for tenders of which his son-in-law was the beneficiary. Schiffer also asked the prime minister whether he considers state contracts awarded to companies belonging to a politician’s family a form of restricted party financing.

Orbán responded by saying that he’s gotten used to people attacking his family. He said people only do so because they want to attack him personally. Nobody should enjoy an advantage or be disadvantaged because of who they know, where they are from, or their political views, he said. Orbán even went so far as to say that anybody who shows up at a ministry seeking advantage by claiming to know him or his family members should be shown the door.

Schiffer asked him whether he would support LMP’s proposal to introduce stringent conflict-of-interest rules into Hungary’s public procurement system. Orbán responded by saying the parliament will soon work on a new public procurement law and that he wouldn’t oppose hearing any suggestions from LMP.

The Hungarian Socialist Party’s (MSZP) Tamás Harangozó asked Orbán about a book published by former U.S. ambassador to Hungary Eleni Tsakopoulos Kounalakis in which she claims Orbán would sit down every week with former minister of national development Mrs. László Németh to decide which public procurement bids should have “priority” and which should be awarded to what company.

Using Kounalakis’ book as the premise for his question, the socialist politician asked Orbán whether he had ever personally taken part in his national development cabinet’s closed meetings, whether he ever personally made decisions regarding the announcement of public procurements, and whether he ever personally took part in the decision to begin construction of Hungary’s M4 freeway (which has since been stopped).

Orbán said he is present at every national development cabinet meeting and that the rules governing such procedures are completely public and anyone can become familiar with them.

Jobbik’s Gábor Vona asked Orbán whether he believes Hungary’s accession treaty with the EU should be modified. Vona said he thinks there needs to be a referendum on Hungary’s EU membership, and that UK Prime Minister David Cameron “is saying word-for-word what we’ve been saying for years now”.

Orbán responded by saying that Jobbik can “hide behind a referendum” but the constitution simply does not allow it. The point is, he said, that Jobbik “wants Hungary to step out of the EU and NATO”.

The prime minister said that despite his numerous criticisms of both organisations, the government’s position is that “it is in the interest of Hungary and its citizens to remain members of the EU and NATO”.

Orbán also talked about how in 2012 Brussels ruled against the method by which Hungary’s justice system was sentencing criminals to life imprisonment. He said Brussels can force Hungary to release criminals who have committed multiple serious crimes back into society, but “we shouldn’t be on the defensive, we should step forward….by saying we should have a debate about the death penalty”.

Orbán said Fidesz’s parliamentary fraction stands prepared to discuss Jobbik’s recommendation on the death penalty. He said Fidesz hasn’t done so yet because the ruling Fidesz-KDNP coalition is divided on the question. Debating the death penalty would be a long process and he was not sure whether a parliamentary debate would be the best first step.

Referenced in this article:

Orbán: Magyarország érdeke, hogy tagjai maradjunk az EU-nak és a NATO-nak, propeller.hu; 26 May 2015.