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Hungary’s ruling Fidesz and its oligarchs

József Ángyán, former Under-Secretary of the Ministry of Rural Development, resigned  in January, claiming that “oligarchs” are gaining influence in Hungarian agriculture.

According to Ángyán, who is still a Fidesz MP, “speculators” and families closely associated with ruling circles have been leased a large portion of state-owned fields at reduced rates, while many local farmers are left without land. These “mafia families”, Ángyán claims, are extremely powerful – they can influence Hungarian agricultural policy and also reap the benefit of most agricultural subsidies.
In the past weeks, left-wing dailies have published an array of articles in which they claim that the government has indeed leased hundreds of acres of state-owned fields to  entrepreneurs allied to Fidesz throughout the country, instead of helping local farmers, as Fidesz had promised. In Parliament, all the opposition parties criticized the government for “promoting the interests of oligarchs.”
Prime Minister Viktor Orbán rejected criticism by an official of the opposition in parliament that oligarchs and businesses close to the ruling Fidesz party enjoyed the government’s favours. Orbán said the system of national cooperation had no room for oligarchs, but added that Hungary did need “large-scale investors, successful millionaires and big Hungarian companies.”
Gergely Karácsony, deputy group leader of LMP, asked the prime minister why the government represented the interests of Lajos Simicska and Zsolt Nyerges, “oligarchs close to Fidesz”, over those of the Hungarian people, of small and medium-sized businesses and farmers.
Orbán said that an oligarch was a millionaire who wants to seize direct political power next to his economic influence to make important decisions in the country, for example by taking over a political party or getting elected prime minister. He added that Fidesz opposed and rejected such practices. “Fidesz will hold onto power in the name of the middle classes,” Orbán said, adding that his government would like to see “more tycoons and successful members of the middle class and as few poor people as possible.” For this, he said, successful businesses were needed. He told Karácsony to file a complaint if he was aware of any economic crimes linked to the state, and Karácsony responded that he would do so.
Karácsony added that Simicska was appointed by Orban economic director of Fidesz and head of the tax office APEH, so he should not think that voters will believe Simicska was not a Fidesz man. He said voters would “give Orbán the boot, just as they did the Socialists, because of these affairs”.
Orbán said he had appointed people into government positions who had held high business posts earlier. “This is right as long as they do a good job and keep the laws,” he said, adding that Hungary needed big Hungarian companies in all important areas otherwise “everything would be taken away by foreigners”. He said Karácsony’s remarks attacked Hungarian capital, which he rejected.
The Prime Minister has tried to deny that his government promotes the interest of oligarchs who want to exert political power, writes Ákos Tóth in Hungarian daily Népszabadság, in a commentary on the Prime Minister’s speech in Parliament. But the distribution of state owned land clearly shows that Orbán wants to support the Fidesz hinterland by creating business opportunities for his “national capitalist” friends, he concludes.
In left-wing Hungarian daily Népszava, Tamás Bihari writes that the government promised to help family farmers, but instead offers land at reduced rates in order to create an oligarchy. While still in opposition, Fidesz promised to help family businesses and small agricultural entrepreneurs, but in practice it now seems to have elaborated a “feudal system”, in which those family farmers who are left without land will have no other option but to become  “serfs” for big “feudal landlords” allied to Fidesz, Bihari contends.
Political analyst Gábor Török notes in his blog that governments often help national entrepreneurs in the hope that once they become strong enough, they can be self-sustaining. This, however, has rarely been the case in Hungary, where ‘clientism’ is widespread and governments regularly use state funds to help their friends. Such businesses often stop operating if the government ends its sponsorship. As for the political consequences, Török believes that if a parliamentary commission is  set up to investigate the leasing of state-owned land, as proposed by the far-right Jobbik party, opposition parties will have an opportunity to successfully criticize Fidesz.
“It is clear that PM Orbán has no good answer to the accusations,” contends. According to the liberal conservative commentator, Ángyán has opened up a debate from which the opposition parties could profit. Véleményvezér believes that now the opposition parties have a chance to challenge Fidesz on factual grounds over an issue which is crucially important for the rural middle classes, which constitute an important constituency for Fidesz.
Source:, MTI

Last Updated on Friday, 30 August 2013 09:11



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