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Accusations of electoral and media manipulation in the campaign

March 3rd, 2014

A left-wing commentator accuses the government of manipulating the election through gerrymandering and domination of the media. A columnist in the leading left-wing daily contends that the public media distorts even reports on events on Ukraine in order to save PM Orbán’s face. A pro-government pundit, on the other hand, accuses former PM Gyurcsány of having manipulated the 2006 elections.

The government uses every opportunity to restrict free voting, editor-in-chief Tamás Mészáros contends in 168 Óra. The left-wing commentator accuses the government of dominating the public media and pressurizing commercial TV networks to spread its own propaganda rather than political ads (see BudaPost February 22). Mészáros claims that the redrawing of electoral districts amounted to gerrymandering. (The number of seats has been cut from 386 to 199, thus the borders of the constituencies had to be re-drawn. See BudaPost November 23, 2011.) He adds that the government offers generous funding to its ally NGOs who in return organize pro-government rallies and ad-campaigns. As for the current debates, Mészáros accuses the pro-government media of manipulating the public by prolonging the scandal around the Őszöd-speech (see BudaPost February 25) and Socialist Vice-President Simon’s corruption case (see BudaPost February 17). In a brief remark about the opposition parties, Mészáros admits that it is not hard to divert attention from their agendas, since the opposition so far have failed to come up with coherent and convincing messages.

In Népszabadság, László Rab maintains that in addition to diverting public attention from more important issues by focusing on “pseudo-scandals” on the left, public television gives a rather distorted image of the Ukraine events. The left-wing commentator suggests that the pro-government media offers a pro-Russian interpretation of the Ukrainian revolution and suspects that the reason is that they don’t intend to cast a shadow on PM Orbán’s recent handshake with Russian President Putin, when they signed the Paks nuclear deal (see BudaPost through January 26).

Magyar Nemzet’s Tamás Fricz maintains however that the Ukrainian “revolution” was an authentic expression of justified anger by the population. Commenting on former PM Gyurcsány accusations according to which Fidesz orchestrated the 2006 riots after the text of his so-called Őszöd-speech was made public, (see BudaPost February 25) the pro-government pundit finds it peculiar that the left now accuses the current government of having targeted democratic rule eight years ago. The left still does not understand, Fricz continues, that Gyurcsány’s admission of lying unleashed a genuine moral uproar culminating in a spontaneous mass fervor, which Fidesz politicians tried to tame rather than foment. In an aside, Fricz remarks that democratic rule was put in jeopardy by Gyurcsány himself, who admittedly won the elections in 2006 as a result of lies. If the 2006 rioting was nothing but an anti-democratic mob running berserk as left-wing politicians like to suggest, then the anti-Yanukovich protests in the Ukraine should be considered illegitimate and undemocratic, Fricz concludes.

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