Orbán re-elected as Fidesz leader, fuel prices capped at HUF 480, government closer to buying Budapest Airport, opposition warns of election fraud

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PM Orbán re-elected as Fidesz party leader

To no surprise, Prime Minister Viktor Orban was re-elected president of the ruling Fidesz party at its 29th congress with an overwhelming majority, last Sunday.

Orban received 1,061 votes, more than any of his vice presidents, he was re-elected as the only candidate for a period of two years.

There was no competition for the position of vice-president either, although it was not clear until a day before the congress who would replace Katalin Novák.  The congress elected the vice-president for the next two years:

  • Gábor Kubatov - 1050 votes
  • Kinga Gál - 1040 votes
  • Szilárd Németh - 1025 votes
  • Lajos Kósa - 1021 votes

“If we continue to govern, we could be among the most developed countries in ten years. Today, Hungary is still an emerging country, and we can only move forward if we work more precisely and raise smarter children than ourselves,” said the prime minister.

Orbán has been leading Fidesz continuously from 2003, and was also its president from 1993 to 2000.

“We still have problems to solve: there are not enough children, salaries and pensions are not high enough, there are still poor people, still not everyone has a home,” Orban warned of the problems still waiting to be solved by his political formation.

He said the successful management of his party demanded time, and he compared the political rivalry to a long marathon.

He thanked his wife Anikó Lévai, for letting him run for president of the party yet another time and praised some Fidesz politicians such as Gergely Gulyas, Péter Szijjártó or András Cser-Palkovics, as representatives of a younger, successful generation of the party.

He hinted at the opposition only vaguely, and not at all at his rival Péter Márky-Zay.

“Those who don’t vote for us still will benefit from our policies, but those who vote for the left will suffer from their policies,” he summarized.

Orban underlined that he considered security to be the most important thing in order to defend the achievements of his government: “We need to defend our results from migrants, standing in masses at the Polish border, or coming from the sea, but also from the pandemic, in order to save lives.”

Orban also stressed the urgent need to have more people vaccinated.

Referring to the Glasgow summit, he lashed out at the “international network led by Brussels, who wanted to make families pay for the cost of climate control.”

Finally, he argued that the whole European political right had to be reshaped, a task he vowed to take on with his ally from Warsaw Jaroslaw Kaczynski.

Government caps fuel prices at HUF 480

The government decided to set a cap of 480 forints on the price of petrol and diesel from November 15, meaning prices can be cheaper, but not more expensive than 480 forints, Gergely Gulyás, head of the Prime Minister’s Office said last week at a press conference.

He also informed that this limit would be applied for a period of three months, after which it would be reviewed.

The decision does not concern the premium products of the fuel stations.

Apart from setting an official price, the government has little room when it comes to the price of fuel, as both VAT and excise tax reductions go against EU regulations, and it cannot lower the purchase price of fuel, according to Péter Virovácz, senior analyst at ING Bank.

Based on the fuel consumption of the same period last year, online business daily Napi.hu estimated the cost of the decision to be about HUF 40 billion.

The measure might make consumers happy but will have to be suffered by the distributors, as the government said nothing about compensation.

Government gets a step closer to the acquisition of Budapest Airport

The Hungarian government submitted a revised non-binding offer to buy Budapest Airport, which has entered into a due diligence process with the government, the majority owner of the airport said on Monday, moving the acquisition of the airport towards the state a step closer.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban has said several times that he wanted to see the airport as a national asset, but owners had so far refused to consider selling it.

The Hungarian government intends to buy back Budapest Liszt Ferenc International Airport, and this can happen at any moment, Orbán said at the end of October to public media.

“Our single really serious international airport should be back in Hungarian hands, so it is right to buy it back, and our economy is strong enough to make the deal” he said, adding that the deal could be made “at any time.”

If the airport was to be taken over by the state, there would be developments that would increase the value of both the airport and Budapest, according to him.

Local media reported late last month that Hungary had offered some 1,500 billion forints (4.44 billion euros) for the airport.

On Monday, the biggest shareholder AviAlliance confirmed that a consortium led by the Hungarian government had submitted a revised non-binding offer to buy the airport.

“The Hungarian government has accepted our terms and conditions for starting formal negotiations. Therefore we have decided to enter into a due diligence process,” AviAlliance said in a statement.

AviAlliance currently holds a stake of 55.438 percent in Budapest Airport, Hungary's most important international airport.

In June 2007, AviAlliance, together with its consortium partners, had initially assumed responsibility for the airport management with a stake of 75 percent minus one vote.

In July 2011, they also acquired the remaining 25-percent stake of the Hungarian state.

Since then, Budapest Airport has been fully privatized. In 2019, 16.2 million passengers used the Hungarian capital's airport; due to the COVID-19 pandemic the number dropped to 3.9 million in 2020.

Opposition warns of potential election fraud after bill adopted by parliament

A not particularly interesting omnibus bill adopted earlier this week by the parliament is a twist to the election rules that remove infringements of the requirement to vote where you live to be linked to an official address card, the NGO Hungarian Civil Liberties Union (TASZ) said Tuesday.

“The bill, which essentially legalizes voter tourism and could jeopardize the freedom of next year’s elections, was adopted in a stealthy way by the parliament,” HCLU posted on their Facebook page.

“The government has hidden the amendment into an omnibus bill, which changes the concept of residence by virtually emptying its essence: the place of residence becomes a kind of contact address, meaning anyone can declare an address without criminal liability, even if it is clear from the start that they do not intend to live there,” the NGO added.

HCLU argues that this opens the door to much more widespread “voter tourism” than has happened to date.

In 2018, during the last general elections, independent observers including Hungarian media and election fraud monitors Unhack Democracy documented significant numbers of voters crossing the Ukraine border to vote in Hungary on election day for Fidesz, who were registered for the election as living in Hungary.

No official investigation happened or charges were ever brought.

Until now voting at an alternative address was an offense but this new tweak removes the requirement to do so.

In a bid to control the fairness of the elections, which seemingly will be tighter than ever, united opposition parties started a project last month to recruit 20,000 vote counters for election day, to ensure a presence and control of the opposition in every single voting center.

During the last elections, they failed to be present in close to half of them.

It is obvious that Fidesz is preparing an organized election fraud," Péter Márki-Zay commented on ATV news television.

According to the opposition's prime ministerial candidate, the government can now prepare to move voters onto flipping electoral districts where the fate of the 2022 election could be decided.

“Now the opposition must find the right answer, pay attention to where Fidesz is deploying a large number of voters and, if necessary, compete with even the lowest means of Fidesz,” he added.

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