Opposition votes die by fire, V4 in recess, Russian hackers in the MFA, polls favor Orbán

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Filled ballot papers supporting the opposition were burned in Transylvania

A reader of Atlatszo.ro, the Romanian edition of Átlátszó, found some 30 filled out ballots in Transylvania, near Jeddar, which were undoubtedly cast for opposition parties.

Pictures taken from the ballots show a bunch of ballot papers cast for opposition parties United for Hungary and the Mi Hazánk opposition party, along with the envelopes in which they should have reached the counting centers.

A full bag of ballot papers lay on the road, including the half-burned ballot papers cast for the opposition, local journalist Boróka Parászka said on her Facebook page Thursday.

It is obvious that the RMDSZ (Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania) and the Hungarian Association of Transylvania were unable to guarantee that the votes cast reached the counting centers, she added.

Transylvania is not the only place where there are problems with the handling of votes by mail. Last week, 444 reported that activists linked to NGOs close to Fidesz in Vojvodina, Serbia had taken over the delivery of the ballot papers from the post office, filling out ballot papers in many places were done in the presence of the activist, who volunteered to return and deliver the ballot papers.

Meanwhile, there were locally known non-Fidesz voters who did not receive their ballot papers at all.

“We always knew they were into election fraud, but now everyone can see what this means in practice,” the six-party opposition alliance said on its Facebook page following the scandal.

“It looks like more and more people in Transylvania think that Fidesz should go. And Fidesz is so terrified of defeat that they commit an evident election fraud: they literally try to make garbage out of the will of the electorate?” the alliance added.

“Our lawyers are already working on the next steps because we will no longer let Fidesz and Orban cheat. They cannot cheat so openly at home - this is ensured by twenty thousand opposition activists in the polling stations,” according to United for Hungary, which called on the National Election Office to launch an examination of the event, and also called on to ban the whole vote by mailing system in general.

V4 - suspended until further notice

A meeting scheduled for Wednesday in Budapest of the Visegrád Group or V4 was canceled after Polish and Czech defense ministers decided not to attend due to Hungary's ties to the Kremlin.

“A meeting of defense ministers from the so-called V4 group will be held at a later date,” the Hungarian defense ministry informed on Tuesday, without further details

Earlier, Polish Minister Mariusz Blaszczak had announced that he "would not go" to Budapest. Her Czech counterpart Jana Cernochova also said last week that she would not go there: ”They have elections and it is not right for me to participate in the campaign," she tweeted, referring to the upcoming parliamentary elections on April 3.

"I have always supported V4 and I am very sorry that Hungarian politicians now find cheap Russian oil more important than Ukrainian blood," she added.

The leader of the parliamentary group of the Polish New Left (opposition) party, Krzysztof Gawkowski, welcomed Mr. Blaszczak's decision to snub the meeting: ”It's very good that he is not going. The Hungarians must be punished for their position which is pro-Russian," he said.

Austrian Defense Minister Klaudia Tanner, who was also invited, also confirmed the cancellation of the meeting, according to local press.

The Visegrád group (V4), was founded in 1991 in the midst of the post-communist transition, bringing together Poland, Hungary, Czechia and Slovakia.

These Central-Eastern European countries, all members of NATO, had been particularly active during the "migration crisis" of 2015, refusing the system of quotas for the distribution of some of the refugees proposed by Brussels.

But Russia's invasion of Ukraine highlighted the differences within the coalition, as Orbán, who is too close for comfort to Russian President Vladimir Putin, is keen to stay out of the conflict.

Other V4 members are at the forefront of the EU’s and NATO’s sanctions and plans against Russia, while Orbán’s media is still acting as a channel for misinformation and propaganda from Russia’s RT and Sputnik TV, and blaming the Ukrainians for the war.

Orbán’s double-talk is clearly seen as unacceptable by its regional (former) allies.

Russian hackers within the Hungarian MFA

Putin’s hackers gained full access to Hungary’s foreign ministry networks, the Orbán government has been unable to stop them, local investigative site Direkt36 informed earlier this week.

“According to former intelligence officials, the cyber attack trail suggests that hacker groups working for Russian intelligence are clearly behind the operations against Hungary’s foreign ministry,” Direkt36 said.

Direkt36 uncovered the Russian intelligence operations against the Hungarian foreign ministry and the inadequacy of Hungarian counterintelligence measures, going back at least a decade, with the help of foreign ministry documents and more than thirty background interviews. 

The site says that these hackers work for the Federal Security Service, FSB, which was previously headed by Putin, and for the Russian military intelligence service, the GRU.

Direct36 also underlines: “What makes the news even more worrisome, is that these hacker groups have been well known to the Hungarian State authorities for a long time, as they have been continuously attacking Hungarian government networks for at least a decade.”

Hungarian diplomacy has become practically an open book for Moscow through the hacking of the ministry’s networks, according to the report, and Russians are able to know in advance what the Hungarian foreign ministry is thinking and planning, and all of this is happening at a very sensitive time.

Russian infiltration remained active before and partly after the invasion of Ukraine, during the current EU and NATO crisis summits. Meanwhile, there is absolutely no sign about the Hungarian government publicly protesting to Russia about the cyber-espionage.

Former Hungarian intelligence and security officers who had worked on Russian intelligence-related fields and had concrete information on many of the cases described in this article contributed to the dating findings. Sources familiar with the internal affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade also shared information about the ministry’s handling of the cyberattack.

Following the publication of this in-depth article, Szijjártó’s ministry refused to comment directly but replied to other media outlets: “We do not pay attention to campaign lies.”

Orban’s party keeps its advantage in polls a few days before elections

Less than a week before the elections, Viktor Orbán’s political formation maintained its lead over the opposition alliance.

Less than week ahead of the 2022 Hungarian parliamentary elections, recently conducted major polls all point to a fourth consecutive victory of Orbán's Fidesz party, and also to a record turnout reaching as high as 80 percent at the elections on Sunday.

According to a survey conducted by Medián late March, the ruling party kept its February positions, with 40% of the population and 50% of eligible voters a few days before voting.

The joint opposition list was supported by 32 % of the voting population and 40 % of eligible voters, according to the poll published Wednesday by Medián.  No other party would get into parliament.

Medián also informed that its survey showed a dramatically divided Hungary: 87 percent of Fidesz voters said Hungary was going in the right direction, while 8 percent said it was headed for a bad turn.

On the other hand, 95 percent of opposition voters said Hungary was headed in the wrong direction, versus only 2 percent who said things were going in the right way.

According to another pollster, Závecz research’s latest poll conducted before the elections, Fidesz was 39 percent popular in the general population, ahead of the opposition alliance, which stood at 36 percent in the week of March 21.

Just like Medián, Zavecz Research also dismissed the possibility of other parties making it through the 5 percent threshold necessary to enter the parliament.

A recent survey done between March 16-18 by the liberal Republikon Institute predicted a close race between governing Fidesz and the six-party alliance of opposition parties, with a difference within the margin of error.

According to Republikon, Fidesz has a slight, 41 percent lead among the total population compared to the 39 percent support of the allied opposition parties. Strangely, Publicus came out with the exact same numbers on Wednesday.

Overall, Fidesz still has a relatively comfortable advantage, but the expected results show a parliamentary majority well below two-thirds, and smaller parties do not appear to have strengthened in recent weeks, Vox Populi commented on the recent numbers.

Vox Populi also recalled that a surprise was still in the realm of possible scenarios on election night, as the margin of error of the Hungarian pollster was very high, due to a very divided society, and limited resources for polling agencies.

The opposition alliance can find hope in the fact that opinion polls in general are still distorted in favor of Fidesz, as it has been the case in the 2019 municipal elections, Vox Populi concluded.

“About opinion polls, I can only say that I belong to politicians who have lost all polls, but have never lost an election,” Péter Márki-Zay, the challenger of Orbán, said following the publication of the latest results. 

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