The price of collecting signatures of the quick and the dead

My initial impression of HVG‘s young editor-in-chief was negative, mainly due to his habit of appearing for TV interviews wearing a baseball cap backwards. But I have since completely revised my opinion of Gábor Gavra. He has turned HVG into a powerhouse of investigative journalism. It was HVG that in the final analysis was responsible for President Pál Schmitt’s resignation. While they were at it, they managed to prove that not was all kosher with the dissertations (yes, plural) of Deputy Prime Minister Zsolt Semjén, the pious spokesman for the Hungarian Catholic Church. Alas, proof or no proof, Semjén stayed and Schmitt’s replacement, János Áder, is only superficially better than his predecessor.

HVG‘s track record of exposing documented misdeeds encouraged others to come forth. For instance, they broke the story of the allocation of tobacconist shop concessions in Szekszárd where the Fidesz members of the city council determined who among the party faithful should be rewarded. The brave vet who approached HVG with the tape recording has since left the party and, as a result of his disclosure, has been having all sorts of problems in his hometown.

HVG‘s latest revelation deals with the Fidesz petition to lower utility rates. According to the tapes it received, Fidesz paid young high school students who were eager to make some pocket money 100 forints per local signature, 500 forints if the signature came from someone out of town. We know from the article that appeared in HVG yesterday that the editors of the paper have not just one tape but most likely several at their disposal. Moreover, as we know from past experience, Gábor Gavra likes to hold a few pieces of evidence back for later use. So, although right now the evidence points to Dunakeszi and Fót, who knows what else the editorial staff of the paper has up its sleeve?

What we know already is damning enough. The kids didn’t just pound the pavement in their hometowns. It seems they were sent to other localities. The evidence comes from a mother whose underage son began collecting signatures on Friday and didn’t return home until Monday. The worried parents actually informed the police about the disappearance of their son. Surely, if he had been working close to home he would have gone home for the night.

Fidesz collected 2.5 million signatures and paid an unknown sum of money to the students for their efforts. But why would such a signature campaign be needed? Wouldn’t it be a no-brainer for 2.5 million people to support the idea of lowering utility rates? It seems from the tapes, however, that it wasn’t all that easy to collect those signatures. One boy boasts that in two days he managed to collect 102 signatures; another claims that one can make 8,000 forints a day.

The payment per signature might explain the many “mistakes” that came to light once Viktor Orbán sent thank you notes to those who signed his petition. Thousands of people complained that they didn’t sign the petition and still got a letter or that their long deceased relatives were also profusely thanked by the grateful prime minister.

Voting fraud

Róbert Zsigó, one of the many Fidesz spokesmen, immediately came to the rescue, claiming that the signature campaign that HVG described was a purely local initiative. A local politician decided to reward the youngsters “from his own salary.” Sure thing. As the video of Zsigó’s press conference attests, that can’t be the real story because Zsigó himself got confused. First he denied that “we paid” anything, but a second later he said “we paid” (fizettünk). So, did they or didn’t they? I suspect they did, and they did it nationwide.

As soon as the news broke, Tibor Szanyi (MSZP), taking advantage of the situation, expressed his belief that if Fidesz can pay for signatures for utility prices why wouldn’t they do the same at the national election where the stakes are a lot higher? We do have to distinguish the two cases. Payment for collecting signatures is not against law as long as we are talking about adults, although I don’t know the status of payment for collecting phony signatures. Payment for votes, in whatever form that takes–well, that’s something else entirely. And, of course, voter fraud (to mention only three of its possible iterations: vote early and often, resurrect the dead, vote on behalf of those who do not intend to vote) is illegal. Unfortunately, MSZP’s suspicions are not unfounded. A lot of people worry about electoral fraud. Viktor Orbán can’t imagine life without being the prime minister and I’m sure he will do everything in his power to remain in office.

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Ron
Guest

First Fidesz paid for people standing behind VO on March 15.

Second Fidesz via, via paid for people to attending the marching through Budapest

Third Fidesz organized but tax payer paid for Polish people to support VO during the peace whatever.

Fouth Fidesz paid for collecting signatures to support the government policy.

Next Fidesz pay for people to vote for Fidesz during the next referendum
Next Fidesz pay for people to vote for Fidesz during the next EU election.
Next Fidesz pay for people to vote.

No surprises here.

spectator
Guest

Ron :
First Fidesz paid for people standing behind VO on March 15.
Second Fidesz via, via paid for people to attending the marching through Budapest
Third Fidesz organized but tax payer paid for Polish people to support VO during the peace whatever.
Fouth Fidesz paid for collecting signatures to support the government policy.
Next Fidesz pay for people to vote for Fidesz during the next referendum
Next Fidesz pay for people to vote for Fidesz during the next EU election.
Next Fidesz pay for people to vote.
No surprises here.

– And people pays ever since voting for Fidesz…

Paul
Guest

“Viktor Orbán can’t imagine life without being the prime minister and I’m sure he will do everything in his power to remain in office.”

Indeed. Everything, and anything.

Ms KKA
Guest

Any chance of getting Jimmy Carter’s group in to oversee the vote, I wonder?

Member

These explanations from the Fidesz spokesmen always remind me on Ali G aka Sasha Baron Cohen.

http://youtu.be/8DKGqVEDBqg

Watch it all the way. The movie title is Ali G In Da House. Exactly like a Fidesz politician nowadays.

Bat out of hell
Guest
MS KKA: I am afraid that you have not read this blog carefully enough. Please rest assured that nothing problematic will happen on election day. People will vote freely and happily on a bright sunny day with a great smile on their faces. Only the very naive can still think that any ‘real professional politician’ would cheat on election day, to be caught by observers. A real pro sets up a proper system beforehand. A real pro will solve campaign financing to its own advantage. He will take control over the media but will make sure to let token opposition media to exist to reach perhaps 5-10% of the population. A real pro will make sure that the national election board consists of mostly loyal ‘experts’ and ‘administrators’ and will of course make sure that the courts and the judicial panels overseeing the election board will be properly ‘staffed’ by election date. There will be nothing to monitor on election day. Election observation will be as effective as OLAF is against Közgép or the EU commission was as regards the new Hungarian constitution. The election observers will only be here to issue a stamp of approval. They will stay at… Read more »
PPP
Guest

Smart interview with Péter Tölgyessy, in Hungarian.

http://444.hu/2013/09/17/tolgyessy-peter-meg-nem-dolt-el-a-valasztas/

Guest

@Mutt:
Thanks for that Ali G link!
I can still remember when many years ago my sister and her daughter came to visit me from London and brought a video cassette with Ali G’s interviews – I was flabbergasted!
That crazy humour and those stiff English “gentlemen” were unbelievable.

Yes, now that I see what’s going on in Hungary, I have to admit that sometimes life is stranger than fiction.

The news yesterday evening were again typical – first King Viktor in parliament and then the report on the court proceedings against the police chiefs, of course with a lot of footage from 2006 and ever so often the name Gyurcsany had to be mentioned.

North Korean State tv at its best (or worst) …

tappanch
Guest

The landlords of the new Fidesz latifundia in five counties are listed below:

http://magyarnarancs.hu/kismagyarorszag/piszkos-foldek-felcsuttol-borsodig-itt-vannak-az-uj-nagybirtokosok-86382

The local head of the state agency distributing the land got 350 hectares form the Hortobagy National Park. There will not be an official investigation, this is not considered a case of “conflict of interest” in the Fidesz regime:

nol. hu/belfold/fideszes_huberesek_kezen_a_hortobagy

HiBoM
Guest

Gavra is the editor of hvg.hu, the online edition, not HVG the prestigious magazine (whose editor is Vass Péter.) I agree that the online edition does impressive work (although someone i know who works there told me that the Schmidt Pál exposé was handed to them Gyarfás Tamás whose interests political rather than journalistic, but I think HVG.hu handled it superbly nonetheless.)

This blog’s initial disdain for Gavra because of his head wear sadly is only too typical, as if the impotent fossils that gather around Galamus were models to follow. They aren’t.

Guest

The Library of Congress–wonderful! Congratulations on the archiving of your work!

tappanch
Guest

Hungarian government will issue dollar bonds for up to 5 billion dollars to substitute the repaid IMF loan.

The interest will be in the [4.5%,5.0%] range for a 5-year bond, which is about 1.5% above the IMF rate.

One per cent interest rate differential corresponds to 50 million dollars yearly, i.e.
55 billion HUF in five years.

So Orban’s PR campaign, which culminated in the early repayment of the IMF loan
costs about 78 billion forints.

http://privatbankar.hu/kotveny/igy-adosodunk-tovabb-az-imf-hitel-helyett-261393

Guest

Congratulations from me too!

Btw, the LoC has an impressive collection of manuscripts from Hungary:
http://www.loc.gov/rr/european/coll/hung.html
From Kossuth to Korda, von Neumann to Szilard …

Guest

Not too much OT:

Someone must have read HS – we just saw a billboard with the slogan:

Európa vagy Orbán!

Couldn’t read the smaller print though – maybe next time.

Ivan
Guest

Congratulations, Eva. This is a unique record, especially pleasing (from my vantage point of being a permanent resident of contemporary Hungary) in that it is so miraculously and relentlessly accurate – however unavoidably grim that record might often be.

Ivan
Guest

Wolfi, I think that’s a billboard for Fodor’s new Liberal party? (Ready to stand corrected, if not) My instinct, when I saw it, is that most people I know would merrily respond “Orban” to the question. Sajnos.

Guest

Ivan, I remember the picture of a young man – tomorrow I’ll go slow. The billboard is in the middle of our village near Hévíz and Keszthely …

Re North Korean State TV again:

The news tonight again was horrible – to me (I didn’t concentrate on it) it seemed that the announcer just randomly inserted the words “Gyurcsany Ferenc” and “Bajnai Gordon” into all those reports – the Zuschlag case was reported again in boring detail …

Paul
Guest

Eva S. Balogh :
I’m happy to announce that Hungarian Spectrum will be archived by the Library of Congress. Thus it will be forever available in its entirety to future researchers of Hungarian politics of this period.

Well done, Éva – thoroughly deserved.

Not bad for an “impotent fossil”!

Spectator
Guest

Eva S. Balogh :
I’m happy to announce that Hungarian Spectrum will be archived by the Library of Congress. Thus it will be forever available in its entirety to future researchers of Hungarian politics of this period.

Great achievment Eva, congratulations!

– But then again, in this case I may have to learn some grammar as well, OMG..!

Paul
Guest

Wow – that’s a thought. Are all our comments being stored in the LoC as well?!

Mutt
Guest

Eva S. Balogh :
I’m happy to announce that Hungarian Spectrum will be archived by the Library of Congress. Thus it will be forever available in its entirety to future researchers of Hungarian politics of this period.

Well deserved!

It will also be on the next Voyager space probe. The aliens will go like … Planet Hungary … NO WAY.

Does this include the commenters?

Paul
Guest

Blimey – I’m in the Library of Congress!

Ron
Guest

Paul :
Blimey – I’m in the Library of Congress!

Same here. Btw congratulations for this milestone.

Member

Bravo to Professor Eva Balogh, whose Hungarian Spectrum has been selected for archiving by the Library of Congress. Eva’s historic contribution — crucial and ongoing — to exposing and fighting back against the sinister downward forces holding Hungary in their thrall today eminently deserved this historic recognition (and I am sure there will be more): Eva, you have been a tireless critic and chronicler, drawing on your scholarly expertise as a historian, as well as personal experiance and an uncompromising ethical integrity. Végtelen hálával gratulálunk mindnyájan. — István

Nofene
Guest

Is there a chance that OSZK (Országos Széchenyi Könyvtár) will fall in line and make it researchable? That would be nice and a good lesson for future generations of bloggers and students of history. Kudos!

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