Senior Hungarian Socialist suspended over undeclared funds

BUDAPEST Tue Feb 4, 2014 5:31pm EST

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BUDAPEST Feb 4 (Reuters) - A senior Hungarian Socialist opposition politician was forced to suspend all his positions and membership in the party on Tuesday after a media report said he held funds in a foreign bank account that he failed to declare.

The Socialists are the main force in a leftist alliance that will run against Prime Minister Viktor Orban in a parliamentary election on April 6. The alliance faces an uphill struggle to defeat Orban's ruling Fidesz party, which has a firm poll lead.

Without naming its sources, the daily newspaper Magyar Nemzet reported on Tuesday that Gabor Simon, deputy chairman of the Socialist party, held an account at a bank in Austria since 2008 where he had around 770,000 euros in October 2013.

The newspaper said Simon did not declare these funds in the official asset statement he submitted to parliament as a lawmaker. His 2013 statement published on parliament's website did not contain the funds.

"At the request of the leadership of the Hungarian Socialist Party, Gabor Simon has suspended his party membership and all his positions in the party with immediate effect today," the Socialist Party said in a statement on its website.

The party said it would hear Simon on Thursday to clarify the situation and would take "necessary steps" afterwards.

"At the moment it cannot be known beyond doubt which of the allegations published in the press are true. But the Socialist Party will do its best to ensure that the truth is revealed as soon as possible," it said.

Simon could not be reached for comment.

Recent opinion polls show Fidesz enjoys a comfortable lead over the individual alliance parties combined, helped by a series of cuts in household energy prices and an improving economic outlook.

The Socialists' allies include former Socialist Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany's Democratic Coalition, the Egyutt (Together) 2014 formation of another ex-premier, Gordon Bajnai, and former lawmaker Gabor Fodor's new liberal party.

According to a poll by Median published late on Tuesday, Fidesz had 39 percent public support in January while the opposition alliance had 22 percent.

The far right opposition Jobbik party, which is not part of the alliance, had 10 percent support. (Reporting by Krisztina Than and Gergely Szakacs; Editing by Leslie Adler)

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