Budapest, September 22 (MTI) – The government is spending at least 11.3 billion forints (EUR 36.5m) on the EU quota referendum campaign this year, four times what the ruling Fidesz party spent on its general election campaign in 2014, the opposition Socialists said on Thursday.
Based on data obtained from the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) through an official request, the total cost of the referendum, including organisation, could be as high as 16-17 billion forints, spokesman Tamás Harangozó told a press conference. This equals the annual payroll budget of the National Ambulance Service, he said.
Detailing campaign spending, Harangozó said the government had signed two contracts between December 2015 and August 2016 to the tune of 6.5 billion forints. In August, the government signed two further agreements for communications totalling 5 billion forints, he added.
The winners of the contracts were close associates of senior Fidesz officials, such as the neighbour of cabinet chief Antal Rogán and Andrew Vajna’s TV2, which won 75 percent of national television spots. Fully 80 percent of radio adverts went to government-friendly broadcasters Karc and Sláger FM, Harangozó said, citing PMO data. Again, 80 percent of online adverts were carried by the Modern Media Group and other websites close to the government, he said.
In addition to spending already accounted for, the government printed 500,000 letters addressed and mailed to Hungarians living abroad, as well as sending 4.2 million copies of a government booklet to households in Hungary. The costs of these operations have not yet been disclosed, Harangozó said.
Csaba Dömötör, states secretary at the Prime Minister’s Office, in a statement accused Harangozo of providing “misleading data” on the referendum, even though the government had made all data available. He added that the aim of the government’s campaign was to inform “every Hungarian citizen … about the Oct. 2 referendum”. This is important, as the decisions made in Brussels have grave economic, cultural and security risks, Domotor said. The amount spent on the campaign is still a fraction of what would be spent on handling the migration crises if Brussels succeeded in implementing its resettlement measures, the statement said.