EON Irks Hungary by Offering Cheaper Gas Than Populist Cabinet

(Bloomberg) -- Hungary’s ruling Fidesz party, which won the last elections after offering utility price-cuts for households, is now in a pre-election fight with a German energy giant offering cheaper gas than the state.

EON SE’s Hungarian unit is offering, under certain conditions, savings of “at least” 13,000 forint ($51) annually for households that abandon the state-owned utility group. The offer amounts to meddling in the parliamentary election campaign, Fidesz Deputy Chairman Szilard Nemeth said on Tuesday, according to MTI state news service. An EON spokesman in Hungary declined to immediately comment when reached by phone by Bloomberg.

EON’s offer coincides with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s bid for a third consecutive term in elections in April after winning in a landslide four years ago. Orban, whom critics accuse of populism and eroding democracy in the eastern European nation, has kept Fidesz well ahead of a fragmented opposition in opinion polls as he moved away from the gas-price theme to wage a relentless campaign against immigrants and Hungarian-born financier George Soros.

The government-mandated utility price cuts, as well as a spate of acquisitions, have made the state utility the biggest gas provider to households in Hungary.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

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