Election 2019

What does it say about a country when you can buy votes with potatoes?

Do you think voters need pricey infrastructure or real welfare to elect someone? Think again.

A couple of months ago potatoes started to be sold by piece after prices trebled in a month. Turns out, the rise of potatoes prices in Hungary is nothing new, potato-inflation has been the biggest among vegetables for the last 15 years. The long-term trend is down to many factors, including the changing climate, over-complicated regulations, inane EU-subsidies that incentivise low-efficiency production and the resulting uncompetitiveness of Hungarian farmers. Basically, by the end of every February, Hungarian potatoes run out and the country needs imports.

Municipal elections are due in October so local politicians – as usual – are busy handing out gift baskets to voters. Fidesz politicians make up the most of these handouts, having access to public funds to finance it. Not only do the put their faces on each and every page of local papers, not only do they produce coloring books for kindergarteners with their own faces in it, not only do they send cash and vouchers to pensioners like Orbán does, they also finance it from taxpayers’ money – like Orbán does. (No, there is no official authority left that would find any problem with them. And if they did, they would just pay the fines from taxpayer money and carry on.)

The photos of these gift packages regularly circulate in the remaining independent media – and they give you an idea just how pathetically poor most of the country really is. No, not the inner parts of Budapest you saw as a tourist. I am not talking about the official statistics that had stopped counting poverty once the level rose to 40% of the population. (And I mean actual poverty, not relative one, living without amenities, heating, sufficient food or any outlook that it might get better.)

Voters today can be bought with a kilo of flour, a bottle of cooking oil and 500 grams of pasta. Maybe a kilo of sugar thrown in.

Or, as it is this year, with a bunch of discounted potatoes.

This photo is of the advert of an event two weeks before the municipal elections, when potatoes can be bought for one-tenth of their retail price, one euros for 15 kg. Below is the current price, just under ten euros for the same amount of potatoes. The organizer of the discounted sale: you guessed it, the local municipality, where the reignign Fidesz mayor wants to be reelected.

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Index.hu found out that even the potatoes for last year’s potato sale (another election year) were bought from an OfFidesz mayor’s daughter from Romania – so the loyalists got their cut as well. 72 tons of election potatoes were bought for 10 million forints (wholesale) and sold for 4 million to locals to secure the Fidesz’ candidate’s winning. All of public money, naturally.

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The candidate’s face is on the potatoes. With a recipe. Bon appetit! Photo: Lengyel-Szabó Péter / Index

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“Be part of the future!” Fidesz’ slogan with the ideal family with a heart of potatoe. Source: illiberal memes Facebook 

Follow us on Facebook , Twitter @_MwBp , or our new Telegram channel @budapesthungary

Featured image: Pensioners with Fidesz food packages before elections Photo: hirek.ma 

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