The issue of “rolling Russian gold roubles”, and alleged “Iranian cash gifts” helping sustain a virulently anti-Roma and anti-semitic party that flaunts its hostility to Western liberal democracy is troubling Hungarian public opinion.
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The proto-fascist party’s xenophobia and strong-arm actions against what it calls “the criminal Roma” have secured it a measure of popularity – and, because of its anti-Western stance, Russian interest is not surprising.
Moscow’s alleged influence with this extreme right-wing party has been raised in Hungary’s Parliament and investigated by the National Security Commission (NSC).
Jozsef Gulyas, an independent MP in the last parliament, who brought the troubling issue to the attention of the Parliamentary National Security Committee, said that “though the ‘rolling Russian gold’ was discussed by the NSC in a closed session, officials would not give an unambiguous denial whether this was true”.
In an interview with the Budapest weekly paper HVG he said: “After a secret session of the Commission, neither the secret services minister nor the Commission chairman could give me a reassuring reply.”
Jobbik, formed in 2003, won 47 seats in the Hungarian Parliament in last April’s General Election and has three MEPs in Strasbourg – a swift rise considering it had failed to get a single MP elected in the previous parliament.
Its failure to publish its budget in the first five years of its existence, although obliged by law to make public
its income and expenditure every year, has heightened concerns about its sources of income. It is now being investigated by the Public Prosecutor’s Office.
Yielding to public pressure, it has now published its accounts from 2004 to 2008. Its income, solely from private donors, hovered between 2.6 million and three million forints (about £7700-£8800), with expenditure in three out of four years slightly less than that.
So, the party’s annual budget is allegedly smaller than the smallest of Budapest family businesses – yet it is running a well-oiled nationwide party machine, supports 47 MPs and three MEPs, and, it is claimed, spent more than 30 million forints (£100,000) in the April election campaign. The size of its expenditure, coupled with the irregularities of its declared income, have reinforced public concerns.
Who, then, is bankrolling Jobbik, the scourge of Hungary’s gypsies and a thorn in the side of Viktor Orban’s new centre-right Fidesz government?
The belief that Russia is using its roubles to manipulate public figures and finance parties useful in opposing liberal Western policies dates back to between the war years, when the Moscow-based Comintern – the Communist International’s executive – used “rolling Russian gold” to further Soviet interests and subvert Europe.
At first glance, the Russian connection is questionable, if only because of Jobbik’s erstwhile anti-Russian rants. But it quickly abandoned its Russian-bashing stance, changed its platform, exploited the “Roma crime issue” and latent antisemitism and focused on countering “decadent Western liberalism”.
The latter strand has found a positive echo in certain nationalist quarters in Moscow. According to informed Budapest sources, Russian money is reaching the party via key individuals. Sources close to investigators of the Public Prosecutor’s Office fingered Bela Kovacs, Jobbik’s foreign policy adviser, as one of Moscow’s channels.
Jobbik’s Russian nexus began late in 2008, when party leader Gabor Vona attended an “intellectual conference” on Russian-European links in Moscow, though he refused to name it.
Vona’s invitation was arranged by Kovacs, who attended as the party’s foreign policy adviser. At the conference they met several high-ranking Kremlin officials. Afterwards a pro-Russian and anti-Western trend became discernible in Jobbik’s public posture, with high praise for Vladimir Putin’s authoritarian, “managed democracy” and rejection of the EU’s liberal values.
The sources point out that Kovacs’s Russian links go back to communist times, when he worked there on the legal side of inter-state foreign trade. In 2003, he qualified as an investment lawyer at the Russian State Academy’s law faculty. His Russian business links have since been ongoing.
Party finances specialists say that, if Jobbik is being financed from abroad, the money could only reach it covertly, through private entrepreneurs. Kovacs, they claim, fits the bill and is involved.
Reports that Jobbik is also receiving Iranian money focus on the fact that Tehran’s gold is intended to reward pro-Iranian and anti-Western attitudes. Krisztina Morvay, a Jobbik MEP, is known in Brussels for her pro-Iran views. Recently she attended President Ahmedinejad’s “Human Rights Conference” in Tehran as her party’s official representative and also privately met several influential Iranian politicians. Jobbik’s pro-Russian and pro-Iranian posturings appear to be rewarding.