On the evening of December 12, the Hungarian Parliament adopted a series of measures establishing a supervisory authority responsible for preventing “foreign interference” in the country’s electoral process.
By 140 votes for and 50 against, the Hungarian Parliament adopted on the evening of December 12 a bill intended to “protect the sovereignty” of this Central European country. Due to come into force next February, this legislative package is seen by the Prime Minister’s detractors as a new offensive to muzzle the counter-powers.
A specialized authority, enshrined in the Constitution, will be set up. Its mission will be to “identify and investigate organizations that receive money from abroad” with the aim of “influencing the choice of voters”.
“This legislation closes the door to any electoral cheating and provides for sanctions of up to three years in prison for anyone who uses foreign funds in a campaign,” explained Mate Kocsis, head of the parliamentary group of Fidesz, the party, in November. by Viktor Orban.
The government, which regularly accuses Brussels and “various organizations” of “distributing billions of euros” to the opposition, is thus hardening its arsenal before the municipal and European elections organized in June 2024.
A bill denounced by the United States
The creation of such an authority has attracted widespread criticism in recent weeks. The Council of Europe expressed concern at the end of November about a “risk” for human rights, calling on Hungary to reverse course.
Placed “under the authority of a president appointed by the President of the Republic on the proposal of the Prime Minister”, an “Office for the Defense of Sovereignty” would have “unlimited authority to request sensitive data and private information to anyone, without control and without legal recourse,” warned Human Rights Commissioner Dunja Mijatovic.
Several human rights NGOs, including Amnesty International, denounced in a press release the government’s desire to “silence critical voices”. “Journalists, businesses, unions, churches and municipalities could also be targeted,” they warned.
The United States, through its ambassador to Hungary David Pressman, also expressed its concern. “The proposed authority has a mandate whose scope is breathtaking,” said at the beginning of December this diplomat who openly disapproves of the policy of his host country, castigating a text “that would make Russian law on agents pale in comparison.” ‘stranger”. A law that Russia adopted in 2012 in response to the American Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).
This American law forces “political and quasi-political” actors representing the interests of a foreign country to reveal the relationships they maintain with these countries as well as their sources of financing. Moreover, faced with criticism from the United States envoy to their countries, Hungarian media drew a comparison between the bill and FARA, estimating that the Hungarian version was “much gentler” than its American equivalent. .