Hungary’s populist PM Viktor Orban freezes essential food prices with tight general election looming
Hungary has frozen the prices of food essentials as the cost of living rises amid a bitter campaign ahead of the April 3 general election.
The prices of seven items, including sugar, chicken breasts, pork legs, milk, flour and sunflower oil, have been capped for three months at their mid-October level.
Shops are compelled to display signs attributing the lower prices to the populist government with the six-party opposition coalition opposition condemning the policy as a political measure caused by a “total failure of economic policy”.
Lidl said it would limit the amount of these goods each customer can buy.
The opposition, which includes socialist and far-right parties, has backed a single prime ministerial candidate, Peter Marki-Zay, 49, to replace the Fidesz party, which has ruled since 2010.
Polling is close but Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s party appears to have a slim lead in most polls.
Orban claims he is defending Hungary’s traditional values from a European Union onslaught, demanding lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights and acceptance of migrants.
He has handed out a 20-per-cent minimum-wage increase and a US$1.9-billion tax rebate for parents.
But the cost of living continues to increase. Annual inflation has reached 7.4 per cent, the highest level under Orban’s premiership.
The price limits involve inspectors who visit shops and hit firms that fail to comply with up to £7,000 in fines.
Orban has used similar policies to limit the costs of energy and credit.
“Hungary protects families,” Orban said in January. “We have managed to stop the rise in oil prices, we have stopped the rise in interest rates on mortgages, and we have a policy of reducing overheads, meaning that Hungarians are getting their energy at a fixed price.”
Ukraine claims Fidesz is encouraging separatist sentiment among around 170,000 ethnic Hungarians in its Zakarpattia region, also known as Transcarpathia, in the west of Europe’s second-biggest country. Several Hungarian government figures have been banned from entering Ukraine after being accused of meddling with Ukrainian domestic politics.
Nato-member Hungary has blocked ministerial-level meetings between the military alliance and Kiev, claiming Ukraine violates the rights of its minorities.
Ukraine’s state language law made Ukrainian the compulsory language in all areas of public life, including education.
Hungary’s nationalist politicians claim minority languages can now only be spoken in private or during religious ceremonies.
A racially fuelled Fidesz election poster. Picture credit: YouTube