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Grassroots Campaign Financing Initiative

According to State Auditing Office (ASz) President Arpad Kovacs (pictured), the civil sphere demands to take part in political affairs, including party financing regulation.

The Hungarian party financing system is unregulated even by Magyar standards, while politicians have continued to lack momentum on the road towards accountability, on both sides of the parliamentary spectrum. Despite this, civil activists, who have launched a nation-wide campaign against dishonesty in political funding, believe the issue could be solved by applying pressure from the bottom up, in a grassroots campaign movement that saw its latest conference recently in the Hungarian capital. The conference was organized by Freedom House, Transparency International and the Perspective Institute. "There are no signs that Hungary's political parties have the political will to reform campaign financing to make it more transparent," British Ambassador to Hungary Gregory Dorey stated at the event. "This is why only 16 percent of Hungarian adults believe that the parties' financing is legal and above-board." Dorey said that in exchange for support, certain interest groups acquire undue influence over political parties. "But Hungarians are not bothered enough about corruption to make it a big issue, even if it has a devastating effect both on tax and business life," he added. The Ambassador also highlighted a need for high-quality investigative journalism in Hungary, which he believed could improve political accountability. One of the proposals of the party financing campaign, has been the introduction of campaign bank accounts, allowing comprehensive auditing of all political party-related transactions. State Auditing Office (ASz) President Arpad Kovacs (pictured) was skeptical, and said that such a move would place a several HUF 100 million (USD 488,000) burden on the state budget, requiring additional institutions and a larger ASz. "In fact, complete auditing of the hundreds of thousands of municipality accounts is technically impossible," he added. According to Kovacs, even identifying funds as 'campaign-related' could be problematic, such as a business dinner that happens to be attended by a politician involved in a campaign. "We must realize that finances have invaded the political sphere and has become a global determining factor," he said. But, he added, the civil sphere has stood up and now also demands to take part in political affairs, including regulatory systems related party financing. In addition to introducing campaign accounts, the conference also proposed to increase the campaign spending limits, shorten the campaign period and urged the reform of the campaign bill, first rejected by the Hungarian Parliament in 2006, and has remained in the waiting to enter legislative dispute to date.

Thomas Anders

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