Hungary’s ruling Fidesz party filed a legislative package to Parliament calling for the criminalisation of foreign funding for political parties and the establishment of an oversight authority for NGOs.
“This legislation closes the door to any electoral cheating and foresees sanctions for anyone using foreign funds in a campaign, potentially leading to three years of imprisonment,” said Máté Kocsis, the head of the parliamentary group of Fidesz, on Facebook.
The bill states: “Hungary’s sovereignty is impaired – and it also carries a heightened risk to national security – if political power gets into the hands of persons or organisations dependent on any foreign power, organisation or person.”
It also looks to prohibit anonymous grants to parties.
Under the Bill, accepting campaign contributions from abroad in elections will be punishable by up to three years imprisonment.
In the night of November 22, the #Fidesz party caucus submitted the draft #SovereigntyProtection bill to the #Hungarian parliament.
Find below my snap analysis about this new intimidation measure to deter civic activism and dissent of the #Orbán regime.
The language of the draft… pic.twitter.com/4iTfikTdmS
— Daniel Hegedus (@DanielHegedus82) November 22, 2023
It would also establish a new agency, the Sovereignty Protection Office, to monitor and investigate perceived foreign interference in politics.
That would include NGOs and other groups whose “activities involving foreign funding may influence the outcome of elections” or that “engage in or support activities involving foreign funding to influence the will of voters”.
It would also monitor “attempts at disinformation”, akin to European Union-style institutions.
The agency would “map and investigate organisations that engage in activities to influence the will of the voters with foreign support or support such activities”.
The Sovereignty Protection Office is intended to be established by February 2024 but will have no sanctioning powers other than to issue an annual “sovereignty report” and to forward any information to the relevant authorities.
While proponents say the bill strengthens Hungarian sovereignty and democracy, opponents call it “autocratic plot” designed to stifle critics and cripple the opposition ahead of the European elections in 2024.
A few days before filing the bill, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán explicitly referred to the international Hungarian-American financier George Soros at a conference.
Soros and the Hungarian Government have been battling each other for years, as the first is seen as a sponsor of hyper-progressive causes.
“George Soros no longer conceals his plans, we know the Soros plan, he has destroyed the British pound, he is flooding Europe with migrants, he openly declares that national borders must be abolished, that is, European countries must be deprived of their sovereignty,” Orbán said.
The “Sovereignty Bill” is the result of events that occurred during the 2022 elections, where the opposition received large sums of money from what were seen as progressive Americans.
According to the ruling Fidesz party, attempts were made to influence the elections directly with funds from abroad.
This was later confirmed by a national security investigation revealing the support of the unified left-wing opposition.
The then-prime ministerial candidate of the unified opposition Peter Márki-Zay stated in an interview with the Magyar Hang news outlet that several million dollars arrived during the election campaign from the United States.
Márki-Zay later admitted having received around 2 billion forints (about €5.3 million) in foreign funding, mostly from the US-based left-wing NGO Action for Democracy, which has close ties to the US Democratic Party.
He took advantage of a loophole in Hungary’s party financing regulations, which only prevent political parties from accepting foreign funds, not civic groups.
Ágnes Kunhalmi, a well-known Hungarian Socialist MP, even confessed that during the campaign, “they [Americans] were forced to sell a product [policy] that was foreign to Hungary”.
They were coerced by “American strategists who knew very little about Hungarian history”, she said, adding: “It was deplorable what US advisers did to constantly incite Hungarian society against Putin.”
Kocsis wrote on Facebook that the proposed bill would “close a loophole” of “electoral trickery”.
In 2017, Hungary passed a law requiring NGOs receiving more than €22,000 in foreign funds to register as “organisations receiving foreign funding”.
This was criticised and removed in 2021 after being deemed discriminatory by the Court of Justice of the European Union.
A new law in 2022 raised concerns by subjecting civil society organisations with budgets of more than €55,000 to regular audits by the Hungarian State Audit Office, excluding sports and religious groups that receive the vast majority of public funding.
BREAKING: national security committee of 🇭🇺 parlament declassified main findings of the report on foreign interference in #Election2022.
Vast resources 3 bn HUF (7.8m USD) provided from 🇺🇸USA to opposition parties, NGOs, publishers via #ActionforDemocracy.#ElectionIntegrity pic.twitter.com/hib33fsrCD
— András László (@laszloan) November 23, 2022
On November 21, Hungarian Deputy Prime Minister Zsolt Semjén submitted another amendment proposal to the country’s National Assembly as part of the sovereignty defence package.
If approved, it would supplement the so-called Fundamental Law with: “It is the duty of every organ of the state to protect the constitutional identity and Christian culture of Hungary.”
The Hungarian bill comes at a time when Budapest is struggling with Brussels over alleged rule-of-law issues and, because of this, the EU is withholding billions of euros.
Hungary’s ruling party unveiled billboards vilifying European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen on Monday. https://t.co/1JQnA68J2y
— Brussels Signal (@brusselssignal) November 20, 2023