Hungary Says Soros Spy Report Shows Election Interference Risk

Updated on
  • Financier cites Hungarian graft, suppression of opposition
  • Premier Orban warns on Soros interference in 2018 election
Soros in Hungary. Photographer: Akos Stiller

Hungary’s intelligence services completed a report on the "network" run by George Soros, backing up the claim that the financier is trying to interfere in next year’s elections, Prime Minister Viktor Orban said.

In an interview with state-run Kossuth radio Friday, Orban reiterated accusations that Soros was bent on undermining Hungary by helping to flood it with Muslim migrants. Soros denied these claims, saying that Orban is lying and setting up a "mafia state" designed for its leaders’ personal enrichment. He said the government was more oppressive than the country’s communist-era regime during Hungary’s Soviet occupation.

Orban, who has focused his entire campaign for re-election on attacking Soros, went a step further in Friday’s interview, accusing the "speculator" of using NGOs he funds to carry out work befitting political parties. These civic groups would set up offices nationwide to campaign against the government because of its stance against Muslim immigration, Orban said, citing the intelligence report.

"The Soros network and machinery has signed up to take part in the Hungarian election campaign," said Orban, who leads all opinion polls by wide margins. "Hungary’s very existence is at stake."

‘Eliminate Us’

As part of his pursuit of creating an "illiberal state," Orban has tightened oversight over non-governmental organizations that his government designates as "foreign-funded." He has plastered Hungary with disparaging billboards of Soros, a proponent of open societies and one of the biggest funders of NGOs in eastern Europe, including a scholarship awarded to Orban himself when he was a university student and anti-communist activist.

Soros has repeatedly rejected Orban’s allegations, voicing his fear that NGOs and their leaders were threatened with persecution because of the government’s campaign. In a video distributed by the Open Society Foundations on Friday, recorded before the prime minister’s latest comments, Soros lamented what he called Orban’s transformation from one-time democracy advocate.

"Back then we were more successful in supporting society in getting access to support and information," Soros said. The political "system in today’s Hungary is the complete opposite of what we wanted to help achieve," he added.

Soros said Orban’s personality has changed for the worse since the time when the Hungarian-born financier gave the young pro-democracy fighter the educational grant. Now Orban wants to remove those groups supported by his former benefactor, Soros said.

"He wants to eliminate us," Soros said. "I’m personally not in Hungary, but the people who I support are there and they feel the persecution."

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