When Transparency International issued its report on election spending on Monday the section that captured the headlines was that showing that Fidesz would spend over double the legal limit – and get away with it. Fidesz stayed quiet on this revelation but needless to say the opposition parties took to the social media immediately.
However the last paragraphs of the report were ignored by all the parties. The simple reason for that is rightly or wrongly the majority of Hungarians believe their politicians are corrupt.
Commissioned by TI, the polling agency Psyma assessed public attitudes concerning the campaign. The findings show that only 8 per cent of the people expect a clean campaign, assuming that the parties will only make use of legal means before the elections. The conclusion has to be that up to 92 per cent did not.
According to the poll, the majority of the public thinks that both the ‘left-wing alliance to change the government’ (62 per cent) and Fidesz-KDNP (55 per cent) use funds from corrupt sources in their campaign, and every second person thinks the same about the far right Jobbik.
TI, the watchdog association K-Monitor and the investigative online portal Atlatszo.hu (Hungarian for ‘transparent’) believe an anti-corruption minimum programme is needed and it is in everybody’s interest to have one.
They have developed their anti-corruption minimum programme which can be found at www.ezaminimum.hu. The recommendations of the programme have been drawn up so that a quarter of a century after the political transition Hungarians can finally take substantial measures against the misuse of public funds.
The aim is to gain the support of decision-makers with influence on legislation, and the broadest possible non-governmental cooperation for this initiative, overwriting political lines.
The programme makes recommendations primarily in the areas of party and campaign financing, public procurement, asset declarations, conflict of interest/revolving door, the management of national assets, and the rule of law.
Sándor Léderer, director of K-Monitor stated: “The country and the legislation have changed significantly over the past 25 years, but now breakthrough has been achieved in the fight against corruption.”
TI and its partners argue that corruption causes immeasurable economic and societal damages; its elimination therefore needs to be in the interest of all political actors. No party striving to get into the parliament can afford to ignore this problem said Sándor Léderer.
Tamás Bodoky, the editor in chief of the portal reported: “The website atlatszo.hu is receiving reports uncovering wrongdoing linked to the election campaign.” He added that all substantiated reports will be dealt with using the tools of fact finding and investigative journalism.
Of course political corruption is not restricted to Hungary but is European wide. Surveys in Spain have shown that around 90 per cent of people questioned believed both their politicians and political system was corrupt. It is a perception the EU urgently needs to tackle across all member States.
(The above article was published in the London Progressive Journal on March 21 2014)