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Zwack running for parliament in Hungary

Hungarian wine and spirits mogul Peter Zwack is running for parliament in a bid to stop the far-right winning power.

The 75-year-old owner of Zwack Unicum, which controls 45% of the spirits trade in Hungary and has stakes in Tokaji and close links with Italy’s Piero Antinori, has a good deal of political experience.

Zwack (pictured) was Hungary’s ambassador to Washington in the early 1990s, and was an independent member of parliament from 1994-98. He is now working flat-out to get enough votes for the liberal Free Democrat Association, the third most powerful party in Hungarian politics, to keep the far-right MIEP (Hungarian Life and Truth Party) out of power in general elections this April.

‘MIEP are radical and very anti-European Union. They’re worse than Jorg Haider (of the far-right Freedom Party) in Austria,’ he told decanter.com. ‘There is a real danger that they will get in. The election is going to be close.’

The ruling centre-right coalition, Fidesz, does not hold a large majority and is likely to be ousted, prompting fears that the right may get in.

The Free Democrat Association campaigns on a liberal ticket, aiming to reduce the state’s role in business and fight for minority issues. It sees itself as a stabilising influence.

‘When I was in Washington I learnt that foreign investment only comes into stable regions,’ Zwack said.

Zwack Unicum is one of Hungary’s biggest companies. As well as selling more spirits than any other it is the country’s largest importer of wines, shipping mainly Italian and French premium brands like Antinori and Lynch Bages. With Piero Antinori it produces half a million bottles of Bataapati, quality white wine from southwestern Hungary. Zwack’s daughter Isabella part-owns highly-rated Tokaji producers Dobogo.

Peter Zwack is keen to stress his company will not be involved at all in the political process. He is unwilling to say how much of his money he has spent on the campaign, beyond admitting ‘it is quite expensive.’

He is confident of success. ‘If my party gets in, which is pretty sure, then I am certain of a place in parliament,’ he said, but added, ‘although of course nothing is sure apart from death and taxes.’

Written by Adam Lechmere13 March 2002

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