Budapest, Hungary – After spending the last few days on Hungarian domestic affairs, it is time to glance outside, where certain political developments will surely have an impact on Viktor Orban’s international standing.
We ought to start with the revelations of the so-called Pandora Project, the work of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, involving 600 reporters around the world. A total of 11.9 million files were released from 14 firms engaged in setting up and running offshore companies.
The Pandora Papers in Hungary and Czech Republic
After perusing the list of files and their owners, journalists discovered a few well-known Hungarian businessmen with close ties to Fidesz. One of them is Zsolt Nyerges, a lawyer from Szolnok, who is a personal friend of the Orban family. Moreover, for a while he was the sidekick of Lajos Simicska. He was the man to whom Simicska sold all of his business interests after his old friend Viktor Orban ruined his business empire.
Another name that might be familiar to the readers of Hungarian Spectrum is that of Gellert Jaszai, the CEO of 4iG, which is described as an advanced technology platform that integrates enterprise data and uses artificial intelligence to identify, classify, and categorize it.
In the summer of 2019, 4iG signed an agreement to buy its much larger rival T-Systems of Magyar Telekom, a subsidiary of Deutsche Telekom, the largest telecommunications company in Europe. I outlined the deal in an article titled “Fidesz now has another way to rig elections: The sale of T-systems to 4iG.” A year earlier, Lorinc Meszaros purchased more than 50% of 4iG’s shares when the company started getting lucrative contracts from the government.
The third name that emerged from Pandora’s box was that of Balazs Kertesz, a lawyer who had a vital role to play in Antal Rogán’s residency bonds deal, which reeked of corruption on a monumental scale. The fourth person is Laszlo Horvath, an entrepreneur close to the government and honorary consul of Kazakhstan, about whom I know nothing. Although these names are known from the Hungarian media, their political importance is negligible, and what the leaked material reveals is not much to go on. Still, I thought they should be mentioned here.
Obviously, the case of Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babia, a close political ally of Viktor Orban, is in an entirely different category. Some people might not know that Babis is a Slovak who moved to the Czech part of Czechoslovakia following the Velvet Revolution of 1989, where he began a successful business career, becoming the second richest man in the country.
Czech PM Andrej Babis narrowly loses election
He entered politics in 2012 when he established his own party called ANO (“Yes” in Czech) on an anti-corruption and anti-establishment platform. However, he has since been under investigation by both the Czech police and OLAF for unlawfully receiving subsidies from the European Regional Development Fund. In addition, it is pretty certain that during the 1980s he served as an agent for the secret Czechoslovak state security service.
Details of Babia using shell companies to purchase a chateau near Cannes in 2009 for $22 million was immediately discovered, and Pandora couldn’t have opened her box at a worse time for the Czech prime minister. The news broke on October 5, with Czech national elections being held on October 8 and 9.
Prior to the blow coming from the inquisitive journalists, the Czech premier tried to boost his chances at the polls by parading around with Viktor Orban. First, in early September, Babis went to Budapest and, together with Orban, traveled to the border fence, emphasizing the danger that Afghan refugees will pose to Europe. Then it was time for the Hungarian Prime Minister to visit Babis in Usti nad Labem, Babis’ electoral district.
Everywhere Orban went, there were demonstrations organized by members of a pro-EU group called “Pulse of Europe,” who complained that “for Babis, Orban’s invitation is an opportunity to stir up nationalist, xenophobic and queerphobic sentiments in Czech society. It is a shame that our prime minister boasts the friendship of a politician who turned Hungary into an authoritarian state that undermines democratic values and that systematically suppresses the rights of the LGBTQI + community.”
According to Botond Bodos, a journalist from Hungary who lives the Czech Republic, the demonstrators especially resented the fact that “Orban was violating the political sovereignty of the Czech Republic with his visit” a few days ahead of the elections that they called “a sacred public act.” In any case, Orban’s visit didn’t help. In fact, it is a standing joke in Hungary that an Orban visit is not a good omen for the welcoming ruler.
There were too many cases in which the politician he had just met suffered a serious misfortune. A partial list appeared a few days ago in a blog called meanwhileinbudapest: Alexander Lukashenko, Sooronbay Jeenbekov, Donald Trump, David Cameron, Silvio Berlusconi, Hosni Mubarak, Andrius Kubilius, Mikheil Saakashvili, Sultan bin Abdulaziz, Robert Fico, and Heinz-Christian Strache.
Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz steps down over corruption scandal
It happened this time as well, though most likely not because of Orban’s visit but because of that box of Pandora. ANO won 27.13% of the votes, but the three-party center-right coalition SPOLU got 27.8% and the center-left coalition of the Pirate party and STAN received 15.6%.
The two coalitions signed a memorandum of their willingness to govern together. Further sealing Babis’ fate was the poor health of President Milos Zeman, who after the election was admitted to the intensive care unit of the republic’s military hospital. He is known to be a great supporter of the populist Babis and also a fervent Russophile.
At the same time, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, the young leader of the Austrian People’s Party (Österreichische Volkspartei), resigned because of a corruption scandal after his office had been raided by Austrian prosecutors investigating him and his close associates on suspicion of bribery and breach of trust.
Kurz, portrayed by the German and Austrian media as Orban’s “best pupil,” has been increasingly ignoring democratic principles and the rule of law. In addition, he was developing a close relationship not only with Viktor Orban but also with Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa. Kurz’s resignation is another blow to the Hungarian prime minister.
A friend wrote me on Saturday from Hungary that “there is some good news: the fall of Babis and Kurz’s resignation. Viktor is having a bad day, and the Hungarian-Albanian match is still to come.” Hungary lost to Albania 0 to 1.
By the Hungarian Spectrum, an official partner of Kafkadesk.