An American academic who is interested in Hungarian affairs was looking for English-language material on UD Zrt. and happened upon a report by a mysterious think-tank called Budapest Analyses. She fired off an e-mail to me asking whether I had ever heard of the group. I had to admit that I hadn’t but promised that I would look into it.
Starting with the Budapest Analyses home page, I could find no way to ascertain who is responsible for this site. The “analyses” done by this mysterious group are available in Hungarian and in fractured English.
Even without reading any of the articles, I immediately sensed that my friend had discovered a publication in some way connected to Fidesz. One tip-off is the list of “media partners” of Budapest Analyses: Heti Válasz, InfoRádió, HírTV and a Dutch immigrant organization called Hollandiai Magyar Szövetség. All right-wing media centers and a right-wing group in the Netherlands.
Budapest Analyses was launched in 2002 “with the collaboration of policy analysts, economists and social scientists, dedicated to sharing, protecting and disseminating a common value system which is closest to the values of the moderate centre-right of the European political palette.” On another site one can find “Analysis #1” on the Slovak parliamentary elections that were held in on September 11 and 12, 2002. Between September 16, 2002 and October 6, 2004 52 analyses appeared on Budapest Analyses. At this point the editors moved all their material to a new site and somewhat confusingly changed the dates of all the articles that appeared between 2002 and 2004 to July 5, 2006, presumably the date when the material was transferred.
As you can see I wandered around quite a bit on the Internet and still didn’t know who was behind these political analyses. Finally, this link revealed that the site was under the direction of the Budapest Fidesz caucus! So much for what the authors and the editors of the publication claimed: ” to publish concise and objective analyses of issues which we believe to be important and timely for those interested in Hungary and in our region.”
But let’s go back to where I started from. The UD Zrt. scandal. Surely, I don’t have to summarize the scandal yet again. We have talked about this case for years. We all know pretty well what happened. If there are people new to Hungarian Spectrum who read this post they should use the handy search bar to find everything they need to know. UD Zrt., a company specializing in computer related activities, including installing spy software on people’s and organization’s computers, was caught red-handed. They were spying on the Hungarian government and on politicians not to the liking of Fidesz.
What did our independent Budapest Analyses have to say about the case? The analysis was written on October 6, 2008, less than a month after the details of UD Zrt.’s spying became public, including the fact that Fidesz was behind the affair. Surely, rapid damage control was necessary. Preferably in English. The title of the article is telling: “New scandal around Hungarian secret services.” So, the scandal is not Fidesz’s spying on the Hungarian government and politicians but the secret service’s involvement in the case. The English of Budapest Analyses is sometimes close to incomprehensible, but here are a few quotations.
The independent analysts concluded that “the Hungarian Socialist Party may have been the most interested in wrecking UD Zrt. because the executives of the company were connected to some politicians of opposition party Fidesz.” Moreover, according to the author, it is possible that “Ferenc Gyurcsány prime minister sent a message to the Hungarian big enterprise sphere by breaking the scandal.” The independent analysts also concluded that “because of the confiscation of UD Zrt.’s computers, confidential data may get into unauthorized hands about either OTP or MOL [two companies UD Zrt. worked for], which renders these companies more vulnerable to blackmailing.”
One paragraph at the end of the analysis was devoted to Ibolya Dávid’s case. Ibolya Dávid at the time was the chairman of MDF who refused to cooperate with Fidesz in the 2006 elections and had no intention of doing so in the future either. Therefore, István Stumpf and András Giró-Szász, the owners of Századvég, a Fidesz think-tank, allegedly offered a large sum of money to Kornél Almássy, a young politician in MDF, to challenge Ibolya Dávid at the next party elections. UD Zrt. would be the vehicle for discrediting Dávid.
This is what Budapest Analyses had to say about this very dirty business. Again, sorry about the English: “One of the recordings [taped by the secret service] is a highly peculiar thread of the Hungarian secret services scandal. This records that employees of the company are discussing with other persons how they could collect data about Ibolya David, the chairwoman of the smallest opposition party Hungarian Democratic Forum (MDF) for her inside the party contestant, Kornel Almassy.” What the independent analysts forgot to mention was that one of “the other persons” was none other than Sándor Csányi, CEO of OTP, the largest Hungarian bank, and a close friend of Viktor Orbán. Judging from the conversation, it seems probable that Csányi might actually have been the secret owner of UD Zrt. The article concludes that “this case further reinforces the impression that MDF has become an indispensable tool for Ferenc Gyurcsány to preserve his fragile authority.” What an interesting twist. The guilty party is MDF and its chairman who is in cohoots with the devil himself, Ferenc Gyurcsány.
Between September 16, 2002 and July 5, 2009, 222 articles were written by nameless experts. At this point the editors of the site decided to stop the publication of analyses on Hungarian affairs. In fact, the publication became dormant. It was only a year later that the site revived but with a different emphasis. The people involved republished articles from English-language publications. They covered practically the whole world: the Near East, Eastern Europe, the European Union, and the Americas.
Why did Fidesz decide to stop publishing articles on Hungarian affairs? Most likely because by mid-2009 it became clear that Fidesz would win the elections and there would be no need for anti-government propaganda that was deemed so useful while in opposition.
How effective was this kind of propaganda? Hard to tell. In my opinion it had to be apparent to readers with some knowledge of Hungarian politics that these articles were coming from somewhere close to the party of Viktor Orbán. On the other hand, the Fidesz leadership obviously figured that the money was well spent. Otherwise they wouldn’t have kept up Budapest Analyses for seven years.