One more Hungarian corruption case, with a twist

In the center of things is HírTV, a right-wing television station. They were the ones who got hold of the two-year-old video between the owner of the motel in Kiskunhalas and László Weiszenberger. Now they have a tape recording between a building contractor and the mayor of Döge, a larger village in one of the poorest counties of Hungary bordering on Slovakia and Ukraine. The interesting thing about the "motel" video is that it was for sale for at least a year but, apparently, the seller was asking too much for it. The other thing to note is that the police and the prosecutors have been investigating the "motel" video case, even if quietly, for some time.

The tape recording of a conversation between the mayor of Döge, Ferenc Tibor Vincze, and the contractor is not brand new either. And again, the police and the prosecutor’s office have been aware of it and have been investigating since at least June, but the recording surfaced only yesterday. On the tape the mayor tells the contractor that some 225 million forints will come to the village for a new school. In order to ensure that he is hired, the contractor will have to give 20 million to seven members of the town council. The mayor also indicates on the tape that they had already received 8 million forints in kickbacks from this contractor. 

From the Fidesz’s point of view the Weiszenberger video is an obvious political bonanza. After all, Weiszenberger was a socialist party member. The mayor of Döge’s case is a bit more complicated. He is, on paper, an independent, but in 2002 he was elected with Fidesz support. In fact, his name appeared on the party’s home page as one of the mayors who hold office with Fidesz backing. In an initial panic over this case, the editors of the Fidesz home page removed the name of Ferenc Tibor Vincze from the list of Fidesz-supported mayors. However, sharp-eyed reporters immediately noticed the missing name. Once it became public that the tainted listed name was quickly delisted, the Fidesz decided that perhaps it was better to relist the name of the mayor of Göde.

That was the sad story of the home page, but the party’s verbal responses were not much better. According to Mihály Varga, former minister of finance and one of Orbán’s deputies in the party, Vincze is no longer considered a Fidesz man because, if he was stealing money, he must have moved over to the other camp. Because, you see, only the other side can be corrupt, the right side is always right. This was so obviously logically flawed that some alternative account had to be found. The spokesman of the party explained that, although it is true that Vincze was supported by the Fidesz in 2002, since then he has chosen socialist friends. A case in point: for the opening of the new school built on EU money he invited the current socialist minister of education, István Hiller! I’m not sure who else would have been more appropriate. Perhaps Orbán Viktor or, if he were too busy, Zoltán Pokorni, who was minister of education six years ago. Really!

And now enters Ferenc Tibor Vincze himself. He too panicked. He took "vacation time" and left the village for a nearby town. A day later he must have rethought his position. During the course of the day he gave two interviews: one to József Orosz on KlubRádió (Kontra) and one to Olga Kálmán (ATV, Straight Talk). When Orosz and Kálmán asked Vincze about the tape recording, he outright denied that such a conversation ever took place. He also told Orosz that Varga’s accusation that he went over to the "other side" is ridiculous. He is an independent who is interested only in the welfare of his town. He also claimed that he knows nothing about the proceedings against him by the Nyíregyháza prosecutor’s office, although according to the office, they have been investigating Vincze’s case since June 21.

So, this is where we stand. I think it’s high time to make an effort to put the house in order.