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Hungary’s Great Billboard War

Government-funded euroskeptic questionnaire sets off a boom in political ads.

4 May 2017

“While you work, they steal!” one billboard proclaims, under a photo of Viktor Orban. “They found each other,” reads another with a faked photo of a right-wing and a left-wing opposition leader joining hands in front of a clown. Others scream “Let’s stop Brussels!” or “Let’s stop Orban!”

 

It might look as though Hungarian politicians have already started campaigning for the elections not due to take place for a year, to judge from the thousands of billboards that have appeared on roadsides and buildings, all with various politically charged messages.

 

But the fuss is not over elections, but the government’s decision to ask every Hungarian to support its euroskeptic policies with a questionnaire that looks very much like a campaign promotion.

 

Headed “Let’s stop Brussels,” the questionnaire, or “national consultation,” asks citizens to answer six questions presented in such a way as to make the government’s preferred answer very clear, Politico wrote.

 

Let’s stop Brussels! Screenshot from a video by Tamas Botos/Youtube.

 

It’s not the first controversial government-led billboard drive in recent years. A campaign to urge migrants not to stay in the country, ahead of a national referendum on EU migration policy in 2016, cost an estimated 8.6 billion forints ($30 million), according to index.hu.

 

But this time the opposition is at it as well. The Two-Tailed Dog Party, Hungary’s resident joke party, has raised 7 million forints according to their Facebook page for their own billboard campaign mocking the government’s posters, and the socialist MSZP and far-right Jobbik have also initiated their own campaigns.

 

Jobbik is currently pursuing legal action against a member of the ruling Fidesz party for allegedly encouraging its activists to damage Jobbik’s billboards.

 

To try and put a stop to future political billboard wars, Lajos Kosa, the leader of Fidesz’s parliamentary group, recently unveiled a proposed law that would regulate the costs of party billboard ads and prescribe that every party has equal opportunities to buying billboard space during the campaign period, the news site 444 reports.

 

One question in the consultation reads: Recently there have been many terrorist attacks in Europe. Despite this, Brussels wants to force Hungary to let in illegal immigrants. What do you think Hungary should do?

 

A. In the interest of the Hungarian people, we must detain illegal immigrants till authorities decide about their fates.

 

B. Let illegal immigrants move freely inside the country.

 

 

  • The government failed to win support last year for its proposal to restrict the use of billboard ads for political purposes, index.hu reports.

 

  • The other questions put to voters concern EU regulation of utility rates, cracking down on migrant traffickers, regulating “internationally financed organizations,” job creation measures, and tax reduction.
Compiled by Mate Mohos
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