Delayed payments offered to parties fined by the Audit Office

Political parties told by the authorities to pay penalties for breaking party financing rules can apply for a 6-month moratorium and then pay the fines in instalments, the economy ministry said in a statement on Wednesday.

The Hungarian opposition parties levied with the fines have all said they will refuse to pay up. The economy minister has asked the tax authority to delay collecting payments to ensure that the pre-election budgets and campaign subsidies of the relevant political parties are left intact in the run-up to the general election.

The statement said that political parties like everyone else must observe the law and it was not possible to exempt anyone from the consequences of breaking the law. “We call on the political parties involved to initiate a consultation with the Hungarian State Treasury and the National Tax and Customs Office on the timetable for payment obligations related to illegal financing,” the statement said.

The commencement of payments must take place from July 1, the ministry said.

The strongest opposition Jobbik party, green party LMP and the leftist Democratic Coalition and Egyutt parties were found to have breached financing laws by the state auditor (ASZ).

In a reaction, Jobbik deputy leader Janos Volner said that in case of an illegal fine, the possibility of delayed payment in instalments is a “scam”. He said it’s like when a burglar offers his victims that he comes back for the television two weeks later, and they’re supposed to be happy.

Speaking at a press conference, Volner said that Prime Minister Viktor Orban had got “scared” and was now “trying to back down”. There are no guarantees that Jobbik will not be made to pay the fine before the election, he said.

Volner called on ASZ to withdraw the “illegal” fines levied on the opposition parties and carry out a new round of “fair and legal” audits. He also said Jobbik would submit to parliament an amendment proposal to allow the state auditor’s decisions to be challenged in court.

He said Jobbik would carry on with its crowdfunding campaign until ASZ withdraws the 663 million forint (EUR 2.1m) fine levied on the party.

Government spokesman Zoltan Kovacs told a press conference that he had consulted with the economy ministry, the tax office and the state treasury and even though the penalty must be paid, the option of delayed payment in instalments will be offered in order to ensure that no party should become a “martyr” even if that’s how they would like to appear. He cited the example of Jobbik, adding that the party had acted “deceitfully”.

Commenting on remarks by parties that they would refuse to pay the penalty, he said this would be a matter of conscience. In recent years, the affected organisations were among the loudest critics of the government when it came to concerns about the rule of law, yet they are now planning to openly violate the law, he added.

Source: MTI/Hungary Journal

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