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Poster bill is back in parliament

June 21st, 2017

As the government tries to push its ban on political posters outside electoral campaigns through Parliament, a left-wing commentator claims that if successful, this would deprive   opposition parties of one of their few remaining tools to reach a wider public.

The bill on campaign poster financing was actually passed, but stripped of its key paragraphs, as the planned ban on political posters between two electoral campaigns would have required a two thirds majority. (See BudaPost, June 16). President János Áder deemed that what remained of it was incoherent and meaningless, and sent it back to the House for re-consideration. Parliament will reconvene from its summer holiday to discuss the bill on Friday this week. The MSZP said they would support it only if it prevents the use of public funds for all political campaigns. The bill is widely interpreted as an attempt to take Jobbiks anti-government posters off the streets.  Jobbiks poster campaign accusing the government of corruption is being conducted on billboards owned by Lajos Simicska, a former Fidesz treasurer turned adversary of the government. The MSZP claims that both Jobbik and the governing forces enjoy unfair campaign privileges at present. Jobbik is accusing the MSZP of connivance with the government. On Tuesday László Botka, the Socialist candidate for Prime Minister, ordered MSZP MPs not to approve the bill under any circumstances. 

Magyar Idők’s Dorka Gabay reports that Lajos Simicska’s company has placed over 4000 Jobbik giant billboards for an average fee of 230 Forints per month – several hundred times less than the usual fee. Fidesz argues that such a subsidy amounts to unfair political sponsorship that should be declared illegal.

In Népszava, former Nészabadság columnist Miklós Hargitay considers billboards as the last remnant of what was once a plethora of outlets through which the left could reach households throughout Hungary. In rural areas, he writes, people read the regional press and watch public television channels, all of which are dominated by the government. If posters are prevented from reverberating with political messages, he complains, then “even these last messaging surfaces will disappear”. He also laments what he calls the low and vulgar standard of political posters nowadays.

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