Fidesz strategies for silencing the opposition

I'm not suspicious by nature. On the contrary. I'm inclined to believe people, probably because most of the time I myself tell the truth. However, when it comes to the political games of Fidesz I can't help being suspicious. Especially since I consider Viktor Orbán to be a grand master of political intrigue. He may not be sure-footed when it comes to economics, philosophy, foreign policy, or public administration, but when the question is how to ruin the opposition, he is superb.

Therefore I was unable to shake the nagging thought that there is a connection between a news item that appeared in Magyar Nemzet on June 29 and a proposal that was submitted to parliament about the changing status of the competence of boards of foundations in which the state has a stake. And looking through the literature on the subject, it seems that I'm not alone.

Magyar Nemzet "learned" that the Hungarian National Vacationing Foundation (Magyar Nemzeti Üdülési Alapítvány) is planning to start a television "news station" that would be a left-wing version of Hírtévé, a station wholly committed to right-wing politics. Magyar Nemzet also seemed to know details about the enterprise. The MNÜA would start the station with an initial capital of four billion forints. They even knew that András Bárdos, the television personality who not long ago lost his job at TV2, would head this new enterprise. When asked by Magyar Nemzet, Bárdos announced that he knew nothing about the project.

On the very same day Mihály Karácsony, who is the president of the MNÜA board, categorically denied  setting up any political news TV station. They are planning to start a channel that would promote tourism. They would show the most attractive and desirable spots in the country, and therefore it would be guided by "patriotism." It would be called, in English, the Travel Channel.

Well, between you and me, I don't quite believe Mr. Karácsony, but since when is it forbidden to start a new television station in Hungary? Be it left or right. At the moment there are two right-wing channels, and MTV, which is supposed to be politically neutral, is moving more and more to the right. This foundation is owned by the Hungarian trade unions, and if the board of MNÜA wants to start a television station that is partly devoted to toursim and partly to political programs, they should have the right to do so.

MNÜA was established in 1992, that is during the Antall government. The initial capital came from the sizeable holdings of the Hungarian trade unions, mostly in the form of real estate. The foundation runs two business enterprises, both involved with tourism. They provide "vacation tickets" that companies can purchase and use for their employees' benefits. These tickets mean tax-free income for those who can take advantage of them.

As far as I can recreate the story, it looks as if the Fidesz government took the story published by Magyar Nemzet very seriously. It sure didn't want to see any new television station, especially in the hands of the trade unions. Therefore, the economic ministry under György Matolcsy submitted a proposal, well hidden among hundreds of other provisions, that would limit the rights of the board members of MNÜA. This could be achieved by changing the present provision in the civil code that allows a board that has unofficially been replaced to make decisions up until the time that its successor is officially recorded. In this case, it would mean that the present board couldn't make any decision concerning the establishment of a TV station.

The opposition suspects that this is just the first step toward the "nationalization" of these kinds of foundations. In the case of this foundation it would prevent MNÜA's board from launching a television station, but in the long run it looks as if the government is itching to get its hands on the assets of these foundations. And all this is being done under the guise of legality. They change the laws, and the rules of the game are changed. This reminds me of 1949-50. The government announced nationalization and from there on it was perfectly legal to take the keys away from owners and to steal their property. Of course, the trade union leaders protest, but I have no doubt that this piece of legislation will also be voted in by the voting machine of the huge Fidesz-KDNP delegation. I have no idea how this whole madness can be stopped. Most likely it cannot.