Orban Locks In Prosecutor Ally Before Close Hungary Election

Orban to Lock In Prosecutor Ally Before Close Hungarian Election

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban moved to lock in another close ally in a key position before general elections where a resurgent opposition is looking to roll back his consolidation of power.

Ruling-party lawmakers voted on Tuesday to set a two-thirds parliamentary threshold to dismiss the chief prosecutor. The move follows a string of appointments, overhauls and rule changes that opposition parties say are designed to preserve Orban’s influence in case of an election defeat.

The maneuvers, which may culminate in Orban nominating an ally as Hungary’s president just before the elections, raise the stakes for next year’s ballot. In case of a victory, opposition premier-nominee Peter Marki-Zay has vowed to dismantle Orban’s stranglehold on power, including by dislodging loyalists such as Chief Prosecutor Peter Polt. Most polls show the opposition leading ahead of the ballot likely to take place in April.

There are other key allies with broad authority whose positions have been strengthened, in some cases with appointments that expire in 2030. These include the chief justice of the Supreme court and the head of the nuclear energy agency, with the president of the powerful media regulator next in line.

The position of the chief prosecutor is key because one of the opposition’s most important campaign themes is holding the political elite accountable for what they see as rampant corruption. Hungary has plunged in Transparency International’s annual corruption perception index to the lowest in the European Union, tied with Bulgaria and Romania. The EU is withholding billions of euros in aid, citing graft concerns in Hungary. 

Polt, a former ruling-party lawmaker who’s held the post since 2010, has faced allegations of failing to pursue cases of political corruption, a charge he’s denied.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

Get Regular Updates