Simicska vs Orban: A political war in Hungary?

Media magnate and former treasurer of Fidesz  Lajos Simicska vows to fight PM Viktor Orban’s rules.

Questions:

1. So from your point of view what is this “fight” between Simicska and Orban about, what’s the main problem?

2. How serious is this for the government?

Answers:

István Hegedűs, Charmain, Hungarian Europe Society

1. The fighting between Orbán and Simicska is about power, money and influence. Simicska is not only a media oligarch, but he was – although not in a formal position – the second-third most important figure inside the Fidesz-empire and the closest friend to Orbán for almost thirty years. Since in government, he had a final word on public investment (mostly based on EU funds), had an impact on decisions of the PM on government personnel. Before, he was the real treasurer of the party and he has built and run a right-wing media world loyal to Orbán until now. But in 2014 Orbán had a new idea to decentralise and disseminate influence amongst many loyal oligarchs and wanted to show that they are all under his political control, including Simicska. So, he has introduced new taxes which limit the profit of Simicska in the media field and new public procurements are not automatically won by him any more.

2. The consequence of the conflict might be devastating for Orbán even if he wins. The regime has showed its worst face: the fighting of gangsters on the top. It has become almost impossible to argue in an apologetic way any more that Orbán’s system has any other mission except centralising power by any means. The regime unmasked itself… Simicska talked about Orbán in a style which was unknown until yesterday: and he even spoke about a physical liquidation he personally might face now… And they know each other very well….

The only problem left: the lack of a credible opposition, but this is another story…

Martin Brusis, Wissenschaftlicher Geschäftsführer des Kompetenznetzes „Institutionen und Institutionenwandel im Postsozialismus“, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München

1. On the surface, Simicska has waged this war against Orbán because he sees his media companies as a victim of the new media advertisement taxation rules the government is preparing. Since the government is under pressure to change the highly progressive, size-dependent tax rates targeting RTL Klub (a looming treaty infringement procedure before the European Court of Justice), the government decided to introduce a tax rate that would burden Simicska’s companies. However, this conflict is probably only a symptome of the more fundamental alienation that has occurred in the course of the last year between Orbán and Simicska, the hitherto prime oligarch of FIDESZ. The most likely explanation seems to be that Orbán lost trust in Simicska and has begun viewing him as too powerful and a threat to FIDESZ rule. Therefore Orbán sought to strengthen other FIDESZ-affiliated oligarchs (Zsolt Hernádi, MOL-CEO, and István Garancsi, Videoton FC owner) in order to reduce his dependence on Simicska.

2. Orbán’s rule has now also become threatened from inside the state and party apparatus. Many insiders used to be loyal to Simicska and now have to change their allegiance or have to be purged. This could strengthen insiders who are considering a coup against Orbán. Simicska could also join the opposition movement if the government will act against his assets.

Péter KrekóDirector, Political Capital Institute

1. This is a crude fight with political and economic motives at the same time. Simicska, who has been the main ally of Orbán in the last 20 years and who strengthened Fidesz’s economic background, gained too much power in some sectors in the last four years (media, energy, construction, green industry). In some ministries (including the National Development Ministry) previously Simicska had the real power in decision-making and not Orbán. He was also able to paralyze the state administration with his decisions. Right now Orbán is fighting his own freedom fight against Simicska, and try to diversify Fidesz’s economic background and break the monopoly of Simicska. Weakening the media empire of Simicska with advertisement tax, and keeping the media is part of this strategy, and this was the immediate and direct reason for this bitter and vulgar conflict.

2. This is a war in which Simicska already lost a lot of battles. But we do not know if there will be one or two losers of the overall war. Simicska has been Orbán’s main ally for more than 20 years. Now this axis is broken, and we do not know who will use his heavy weaponry first, and how. Both of them has a lot of information on each other, and Orbán has the control over the political institutions, and also on the prosecutor’s office. In this conflict both sides can lose a lot.

Dániel Bartha, Executive Director, Centre for Euro-Atlantic Integration and Democracy (CEID)

1. Simicska was the financial director of Fidesz, then he got into business and he was the most trusted businessman of Orban. He won all the public procurements, the turnout of only the infrastructure development company he owned was over 1 billion EUR. According to him Orban shared his plans after the last elections, which Simicska considered as building a dictatorship and having a pact with Russia that is the same as Soviet Union was. We don’t know what the plans were.

Simicska’s companies include not only major media outlets, but he also centralized advertisement sector, which meant for opposition that they had very limited room to have ads on the streets at elections.

Now Simicska will turn these major media (HírTV- which is exactly like TA3, Magyar Nemzet (nr 2 newspaper), Magyar Nemzet Online, Lánchíd rádió (nr 2 , Budapest based news radio), ClassFM (most popular entertainment radio) and a larger nr of local newspapers against Fidesz.

2. We don’t know yet. His remarks suggest that it is not about money any more but principles and he is ready to fight to the very end. This suggests not immediately but very serious on the mid-term. Fidesz lost its well designed media superpower almost totally and surrounded now by internal enemies.This indicates the final fraction between Old Fidesz and New Fidesz and the principal figure is not Orban , as I think he totally lost control , but Janos Lazar and Antal Rogan.

 

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