In Hungary, government proposes constitutional amendment on 'protecting national sovereignty' by restricting foreign money in politics and creating new oversight agency

22 November 2023
Flag of Hungary (photo credit: European Space Agency)
Flag of Hungary (photo credit: European Space Agency)
Hungary’s ruling party on [21 November] submitted a draft act that the government claims will rid the country’s politics of foreign money, but opposition parties agree is designed to neuter criticism ahead of the elections for the European Parliament in June 2024 and build on Fidesz’s campaign centred on “national sovereignty”. Tabled by Fidesz parliamentary leader Mate Kocsis, the bill on “protecting national sovereignty” calls on lawmakers to amend the constitution to include a passage on sovereignty. “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,” the bill reads. [...] [T]he act would make accepting foreign funding while standing for election punishable by up to three years in prison. It would also create a new agency to monitor and investigate foreign interference in politics, including NGOs or other organisations whose “activities using foreign funding may influence the outcome of elections” or which “engage in or support activities to influence the will of voters using foreign funding”. The Sovereignty Protection Office will be set up by February 2024, but will not have any sanctioning power other than publishing an annual “sovereignty report” and passing on any information to the authorities. [...] [The bill also looks] to ban the funding of political parties or candidates by Hungarian legal entities or associations and forbids anonymous grants to parties, which would deal a potentially lethal blow for opposition parties already suffering from financial problems. [...] Critics point out this is just one of several attempts by the Orban government over the years to curb and silence the opposition and civil society groups that are critical of the government. Yet despite enjoying a two-thirds majority in parliament that allows Fidesz to change any legislation, many of these attempts were shipwrecked on the rocks of the European courts, which could also be the fate of this act.
Read the full article here: Balkan Insights


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