The opposition Socialist Party today submitted two referendum bids “for the protection of public funds” to the National Election Committee (NVB).
The Socialists want parliament to oblige the government to join the European public prosecutor’s office and to have government spending on communications distributed on the basis of readership and viewing figures, Bertalan Tóth, the party’s chairman and group leader, told a press conference.
Tóth justified the bid on joining the European prosecutor’s office saying that the Hungarian chief public prosecutor’s office had failed to investigate cases surrounding “[ruling] Fidesz oligarchs” and what he called Fidesz’s mishandling of public funds.
Tamás Harangozó, the party’s deputy group leader, said it was in the interest of all Hungarian taxpayers to know that they were the ones losing out on European Union funds that were not being spent the way they were intended, but “end up going to Fidesz oligarchs, relatives and friends”. Joining the European public prosecutor’s office would serve as a guarantee to Hungarian taxpayers that “those who steal public funds will be held to account”, he said.
Harangozo said the party was aware that the Kúria, Hungary’s supreme court, has rejected multiple referendum bids on this issue, but expressed hope that recent changes in the legal environment would entice the top court to “side with the Hungarian people”.
Gergely Örsi, the deputy head of the Socialist Party’s Budapest chapter, said that
the other referendum bid seeks to prohibit state-owned companies and the government from running advertisements during general, local and European parliamentary election campaigns.
He argued that during Hungary’s general election campaign earlier this year, the government “spent billions on an ad campaign that that was practically identical to Fidesz’s campaign”. The Socialists want money for government information campaigns to be distributed more evenly, in a way that reflects how many viewers and readers the various media outlets attract, he said.
In response to a question, Harangozó said the party expects the NVB to reject their bid concerning the European prosecutor’s office and that they expect the Kúria to have the final say. He said they expect the signature drive for the referendum to coincide with next year’s European parliamentary election campaign.