Hungary’s biggest opposition party Jobbik faces financial and leadership crisis

Hungary’s biggest opposition party Jobbik faces financial and leadership crisis
Right-wing opposition party Jobbik faces an internal crisis
By bne IntelliNews June 13, 2018

Hungary’s State Audit Office (ASZ) has proposed the suspension of state funding for right-wing Jobbik on June 13, which could cripple the operation of the largest opposition party in parliament. Jobbik is also facing an internal struggle and a possible split after the expulsion of a popular radical politician from its ranks.

Jobbik failed to make a breakthrough at April’s general election, gathering 20% of the vote, which gave the party 26 mandates of the total 199. Under the leadership of Gabor Vona in the past few years, the party, which ran on a radical nationalist and anti-EU platform, toned down its rhetoric and made a shift to the centre with the aim of becoming a people’s party that could challenge Fidesz.

Many suspect that behind this strategic shift is former Fidesz cashier Lajos Simicska, who broke ties with Prime Minister Viktor Orban in 2015. The oligarch, who has been squeezed out of public procurement tenders in the past three years, provided outdoor billboard space for Jobbik at discount prices.

This served as the pretext late last year for ASZ to fine the party HUF330mn (€1.03mn) for accepting illegal financing in the form of a billboard campaign at below-market prices. In addition, the party's state subsidies were slashed by a further HUF330mn. The imposition of the fine was suspended before the election.

On Wednesday, the ASZ said that Jobbik has failed to make its finances transparent for the years 2015 and 2016. It also established that the opposition party had received illicit financial contribution last year.

The ASZ audited the opposition parties as part of a biannual routine early in January and found deficiencies and accounting irregularities with each. Under Hungarian regulations, in such cases, the organisation audited is obliged to prepare an action plan and submit it to the ASZ for approval.

Jobbik is also faced with an internal struggle and a possible split, after the expulsion of former deputy leader Laszlo Toroczkai, who had made an unsuccessful run at the party congress in May to become its leader, following the resignation of Gabor Vona.

He was expelled after he planned to set up a platform. Prior to the decision, he did not rule out the creation of his own party if he was forced out of Jobbik. Toroczkai, who is mayor of a small town near the Serbian border, adjacent to the border fence, has blasted the moderate tone of Jobbik and urged the return to the party’s radical past.