Márki-Zay wins primaries, Hungary receives emergency epidemic loan from Asia, head of media watchdog resigns

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Márki-Zay elected as challenger of Viktor Orbán in Hungarian opposition primaries

Péter Marki-Zay, a 49 year-old conservative mayor of Hódmezővásárhely won the Hungarian opposition primary elections, putting him as the challenger of Prime Minister Viktor Orban in next year’s general elections.

Marki-Zay won 56.7 percent of the votes, against Klara Dobrev (43.3 percent), the candidate of the biggest opposition party DK (social-democrat), who is the wife of former socialist prime minister Ferenc Gyurcsany.

Voters have seen Dobrev as less able to unite opposition, because her husband - even if the president of the currently strongest opposition party - is still one of the most unpopular political figures of the country.

The turnout of the primaries, organized by the six main opposition parties, was over 8 percent, which is above the 3-5 percent expected by the organizers before the voting.

The six Hungarian opposition parties, conservatives, socialists, greens, liberals etc.. have decided to unite before the general elections scheduled for April 2022, in order to maximize their chances at winning over Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who has been in power since 2010.

The first round of the opposition primaries, that started last month, elected the 106 common candidates, who will go into the elections to challenge each representative of Orban’s Fidesz party in an electoral duel.

“We are united, young and old, conservatives and liberals, socialists and greens, the only question remaining today is Fidesz or no Fidesz,” Marki-Zay, a father of seven children, told a cheering crowd in downtown Budapest late Sunday night, as votes were still counted, but Dobrev had already conceded victory and vowed to work together with Marki-Zay in the following months.

Marki-Zay only came in third in the first round of the Hungary, behind Dobrev and Budapest Mayor Gergely Karacsony, but the latter stepped out of the race in favor of Marki-Zay, who, according to Karacsony, had more chance to win against Dobrev.

The main program of the opposition is to end all tensions between Hungary and the European Union, which has been at odds with the Orban government for many years, arguing that the Hungarian leader has driven the country away from core EU values. The Brussels Commission wants Budapest to make changes in its legal system mostly concerning the media, the disbursement of EU funds, and the judiciary.  All elements that fall in line with the objectives of the opposition.

Hungary will receive a EUR 183 million emergency epidemic loan from the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB)

Hungary will receive an emergency epidemic loan to renovate 17 hospitals from an investment bank focusing on developing Asian countries, local online business weekly HVG said, adding that part of the loan actually finances retroactive equipment purchases, such as unused medical ventilators piled up in a warehouse.

Hungary is the first non-Asian country to benefit from AIIB funding under the Bank's Covid-19 Crisis Recovery Facility. According to hvg.hu, Hungary can receive emergency support under the bank's Covid asset because

  • the health system is in bad shape,
  • the population is aging and sick,
  • the country is performing poorly in the fight against the epidemic.

“Despite the initial success, Hungary has experienced high COVID-19 related mortality rates4 as a result of its underlying population structure, and remains vulnerable to another wave of COVID-19. Hungary’s demographic is tilted towards an older age population with a high prevalence of chronic diseases (cardiovascular diseases, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD), hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and cancer) which has contributed to the high COVID-19 mortality rate,” according to AIIB.

“Many of the public health care facilities in Hungary were constructed over 50 years ago and require upgrades to accommodate modern infection control including disinfection and air filtration, optimized patient flow, and upgraded modern medical equipment such as oxygen therapy devices, vital signs monitors, and ventilators,” AIIB added.

Part of the loan, EUR 27.6 million, will be spent on “the purchase of patient care equipment”, ie “oxygen therapy equipment, vital signs monitors, protective equipment and medicines”.

In addition, EUR 27.3 million worth of hospital laboratory capacity will be developed. Another EUR 171.5 million will in principle be spent on renovating 17 hospital buildings, including:

  • • National Institute for Hematology and Infectology - South Pest Center Hospital
  • • Korányi National Institute of Pulmonology (OKPI)
  • • Heim Pál National Institute of Pediatrics
  • • National Institute of Medical Rehabilitation (OORI)
  • • Szent Imre University Hospital
  • • Szent Margit Hospital
  • • Uzsoki Hospital
  • • Jahn Ferenc South Pest Hospital and Clinic
  • • Bajcsy-Zsilinszky Hospital and Clinic

Head of pro-Orban Media Council resigns, so Fidesz can choose a successor for 9 years, 6 months before the elections

Mónika Karas, president of the Media Council is officially "looking for new challenges", but her decision is especially timely for the governing parties, as her successor can thus be elected by the current Fidesz-KDNP majority - for another 9 years.

Karas, who also leads the National Media and Communications Authority (NHHH), resigned with effect from October 31.

President Ader appointed Karas, upon proposal of the prime minister on August 19, 2013 - succeeding Annamária Szalai.  Her appointment would therefore expire in only September 2022, after next year’s parliamentary elections.

Thus, Karas’s resignation lets the current majority of the parliament decide the fate of this strategically important territory for nine years.

Furthermore, the Media Council is made up of Fidesz delegates only, and they are cemented onto their seats until 2028.  The Media Council is the supreme media watchdog of Hungarian media, having an exclusive power to decide on frequency tenders and fines.

It is through the Media Council that the government silenced the only opposition radio Klubradió, by stripping it first from its frequencies outside of the capital, then seizing its Budapest frequency.

Klubradio operates now as an Internet radio, reaching but a fraction of its earlier audience.

The media watchdog also supervises the operation of the state news agency, MTVA, which failed to report on the major political event of 2021, i.e. the opposition primaries.

“What the state news agency does is completely sick, and it is certainly counterproductive. This will drive propaganda consumers to start searching for other sources as well, otherwise they will be left out from relevant information,” Mérték Media NGO said after the resignation of Karas, hinting at the omission of the primaries in government controlled media.

“András Koltay, a tried and tested confidant of the NER, can now take the seat the helm of the NMHH and the Media Council. He served, as he had previously voted for everything he had been asked for as a member of the Media Council for nine years. He loved Simicska, then Vajna, then Mészáros. We wish you much success in your arduous party service,” Mérték Média added.

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