Last week the Hungarian parliament passed the “Bill on the Protection of Sovereignty”, which de facto targets opposition parties. Under the guise of protecting election campaigns from foreign influence, the newly established office can conduct investigations at any institution, copying and taking away documents without judicial permission and control. Our colleague Péter Techet explains the details of the bill and what consequences it may have for the Hungarian opposition.
On Tuesday evening, the Hungarian Parliament passed the “Bill on the Protection of Sovereignty.” Representatives from the ruling parties Fidesz and KDNP, along with the small far-right opposition party “Our Homeland,” voted in favor of the law, while the other opposition parties opposed it.
The justification for the new Bill makes it clear that its target is the opposition parties. They are accused of receiving funds from abroad, thereby violating even existing rules on party financing.
Let me quote the legislative reasoning of the Bill: “Hungary’s sovereignty is increasingly under attack […]. For years, attempts to exert influence have been observed, where foreign organizations and individuals try to enforce their own interests in our country, contrary to Hungarian interests and rules. Already during the parliamentary election campaign in 2022, there were attempts to influence the elections with funds directly from abroad, as confirmed by the National Intelligence Service’s investigation into the united left-wing opposition.”
Clear language, clear statement…
The new “Bill on the Protection of Sovereignty” establishes the “Office for the Protection of Sovereignty,” which can conduct investigations at any institution, copying and taking away documents – even without judicial permission and control!
The use of foreign funds in an election campaign is now considered a criminal offense punishable by imprisonment of up to 3 years.
Is the entire law only a form of political rhetoric, or does it pose a real danger to independent institutions?
The current law does not go so far as to label all institutions receiving foreign funds as “foreign agents” (following the Russian model). However, there is a risk that the new law represents the first step toward increased government control and restriction of independent organizations and media.
Several independent media outlets protested in a joint letter against the new law, denouncing it as a gateway to “political arbitrariness.”