election 2024

Budapest mayoral campaign sees EU-funds channeled to NGOs led by Fidesz-candidate

A massive network of GONGOs in Újbuda has been built around the Fidesz mayoral candidate with the help of hundreds of millions of HUFs of government funds, just in time for the summer local elections. This network is an excellent example of public funds being used to prop up the ruling party’s campaign efforts.

While Hungary technically has free and secret elections, the imbalances of campaign resources has for several cycles guaranteed that the ruling Fidesz party rarely loses important ground. Public funds are regularly spent to prop up a massive political machine that ensures electoral successes of the ruling party. In recent years, a network of NGOs organized around the former vice-mayor, Nóra Király of the 11th district of Budapest. After years of massive public funding, Király is in position to leverage this network to help her election as mayor, backed by the ruling party.

Battleground district

In the last few month, we covered the growing (in number and funding) network of GONGOs tied to local leaders of the government parties. The Orbán government has used the Urban Civic Fund (VCA) and and similar programmes to channel organizations tied to, and often led by local politicians. Many such organizations have previously campaigned for Fidesz candidates, some of them even appearing on the ballots. Now flush with taxpayers’ funds, these local GONGOs are may prove crucial in the upcoming municipal election campaign.

429661094 961624851992476 2606343220775006693 N

Nóra Király’s civic brochure offering gifts for new residents

The 11th district of Budapest, currently led by an opposition mayor, may be one of the more close mayoral elections this year: opposition parties announced that (just like 4 years ago) they plan to form a coalition, while Viktor Orbán’s allies are also investing immense resources into the race. The expected mayoral candidate,

Nóra Király is in the center of a massive network of NGOs, that in recent years received hundreds of millions of HUFs in government funding.

“We’re looking for new residents of Újbuda to welcome and give them a gift” – reads a recent announcement on the website of a District 11th NGO named FICSAK 11 (Young Families’ Club). The organization offers a gift package worth 10,000 HUF to new residents of the district, and lucky ones can win additional vouchers worth 20 and 100,000 HUF in a draw. FICSAK 11 also hosts children’s activities, dog training sessions and hikes.

Loyal civic leader

FICSAK 11 is one of the NGOs founded by Nóra Király. Unusually for NGOs, FICSAK 11 and several other organisations go into great length to show Király’s name and face at every opportunity in their communications. Even though they are not yet involved in any direct political campaigning, this is still obviously the brand-building of a political candidate. In March 2024, Nóra Király has already been named as the candidate for mayor by the local Fidesz chief, and on her personal website, refers to herself as the Fidesz-KDNP candidate for mayor.

Nóra Király was vice-mayor in the 11th district, until the pro-Fidesz mayor was ousted in 2019. Before that, she was a member of the party’s youth wing, and later headed a national campaign effort to reach female voters. In 2020 she was also a candidate for the European Parliament.

After the EP elections, she mainly appeared in the public eye as a civic leader, while the organisations she was involed in (FICSAK, Zöld Követ Egyesület, Gazdagréti Összefogás Egyesület) won a series of public NGO funding tenders.

She has branded herself as a public figure concerned with the environment, women’s rights, family issues as well as an organizer of local leisure activities.

In many ways, she embodies the ideal “government civic leader”: in her public appearances she eschews broadcasting her party affiliation. Her public activities are often apolitical; her social media presence is reminiscent of professional influencers, showing her competing in sports, cooking, hiking or interacting with her children.

400697217 882033260045697 923751625054263244 N

Nóra Király with MP Szilárd Németh in November 2023, source:Facebook/kiralynoraujbuda

At the same time, she proudly showcases her meetings with local and national Fidesz politicians, and has recently been increasingly vocal about public life in her district.

How a sports club campaigned for a mayor

In Újbuda, there is already a precedent of NGOs participating in the municipal election campaign. In 2019, G7 reported that the campaign of Tamás Hoffmann, the mayor running for re-election, was supported by a number of pro-Fidesz GONGOs.

On Hoffmann’s posters, the Fidesz logo was accompanied by the logos of, among others, the “Association of Value Preservers of Szentimreváros”, the “I Love Újbuda Association”, the “Újbuda Coalition Association”, and even an on-paper sports association (Újbudai Összefogás Sportegyesület). At the time, G7 these organisations as being””completely insignificant, with incomes of only a few million HUFs, most of which comes from the Fidesz-led Újbuda municipality.”

This has changed dramatically: in the last 2-3 years, organisations supporting Tamás Hoffmann’s unsuccessful 2019 campaign have received millions of euros in state funding through the Municipal Civil Fund, the National Cooperation Fund (Nemzeti Együttműködési Alap) and especially the Cabinet Office of the Prime Minister led by Antal Rogán.

These, together with Nóra Király’s organisations, became a network handling hundreds of millions of public funds by the start of the 2024 election campaign.

This network can be clearly seen in the FICSAK 11 brochure titled “Welcome to Újbuda”. The booklet contains a list of local NGOs that new residents can turn to for excursions, sports or career help – most of the organisations presented are the same as the pseudo-civic groups that  supported Tamás Hoffmann’s campaign. The organisations and individuals mentioned in this article and their network of contacts are shown in the chart below:


Network of state-subsidized GONGOs in the 11th District of Budapest

The brochure promotes, for example, the Gazdagrét Association that organizes activities for senior citizens. The association is registered under and address is the business address of Nóra Király. In 2021, the Association received HUF 3.9 million from the Municipal Civic Fund.

A year later, the group received 20 million HUFs from the Cabinet Office of Prime Minister in a one-off civilian grant without a tender.

This is not the only organisation linked to Nóra Király that has received millions of HUF’s from Rogán’s office. Nóra Király is the founder of the “Everyday through the Eyes of Women” which received a total of 66 million HUF from the Cabinet Office between 2017 and 2020. The grant was supposedly for the development of their website (csaladitudastar.hu). Despite the price, the website includes a simple set of text and videos, and was built with the open-source WordPress system.

The Women’s Eyes Association was also registered for the address of Nóra Király, but last year its the address was changed. Officially, the group is currently based in the far-away town of Székesfehérvár. Despite this, the brochure promotes it as a group where Újbuda women can turn to for help.

245487040 4456119177757371 7824604139998099617 N

Nóra Király at the programme of the Women’s Eye Association, source: facebook/noiszemmel/

Nóra Király also represents the “Green Ambassador Association”. As part of a larger consortium, this organisation also received EU funding: under the Széchenyi 2020 programme, 15 green organisations were able to share nearly HUF 1 billion in the KEHOP-3.1.5-21-2021-00003 project, which they could spend on “awareness-raising”. This association also received funds from Rogán’ office: HUF 50 million in 2021 and HUF 20 million in 2023.

Újbuda was the first district in Budapest to announce that opposition parties will run a joint candidate for mayor again this year, just like in 2019. In 2019, the joint opposition candidate won with a relatively strong majority: Imre László of the DK won just over 50 percent of the vote, while Tamás Hoffmann of the Fidesz-KDNP won 43.19 percent. Nevertheless, the money invested in NGOs linked to this year’s Fidesz candidate suggests that the district is seen as a winnable district in government seats.

All the more so because the Cabinet Office of Antal Rogán, considered the most influential politician after Viktor Orbán in national affairs, is also endorsing Nóra Király’s network:

a victory in Újbuda would prove the effectiveness of the pro-Fidesz NGOs supported by public funds in the campaign at a national level.

Written and translated by Zalán Zubor, the Hungarian version of this story is here.