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EP Elections Redefine Opposition Power Relations, Affecting Budapest Local Elections

Péter Cseresnyés 2019.06.05.

Fidesz, as expected by most, won a sweeping victory in the EP elections. The results of the opposition parties, however, were rather surprising and nothing went according to previous estimations. It has rewritten the balance of power on the entire opposition side and these results have a clear significance in the upcoming municipal elections in the autumn, especially in Budapest where the opposition is usually much stronger than in other parts of the country. At this point it’s unclear how many mayoral candidates will challenge István Tarlós, the incumbent Mayor of Budapest supported by Fidesz.

Tarlós is still considered rather popular in Budapest, even after serving two terms. As surveys show, only a strong cooperating opposition with only one common mayoral candidate could guarantee that the local election’s result favors the opposition, and the next mayor comes from one of their parties.

The coordination between four opposition parties: the Socialist Party (MSZP), the Democratic Coalition (DK), Párbeszéd (Dialogue), and Momentum was well realized even before the EP elections. In spite of Róbert Puzsér, an independent Budapest mayoral candidate, at the time backed by opposition Jobbik and LMP, being rather critical of those four parties’ action of dividing the districts of the capital between themselves (regarding the local mayoral candidates),  he seemed to agree to take part in the pre-election process.

The Election Chances of the Opposition

Gergely Karácsony, the Budapest mayoral candidate representing the four leftist-liberal opposition parties, and Puzsér, have even vowed to step aside in favour of the other in a pre-election to be held in the summer ahead of the autumn local elections.

Democratic Coalition (DK), the opposition party with the most supporters in the EP elections, declared it would not terminate cooperation agreements with other opposition parties signed ahead of Hungary’s municipal elections and they do not want to withdraw support from Karácsony.

After the results of the EP elections, however, the opposition parties in Budapest do not appear to be on the verge of  full scale cooperation, as it seems these parties instead have initiated a power struggle to determine which party will delegate Budapest’s district mayoral candidates. Also at this point, it’s unclear how many mayoral candidates will challenge Tarlós.

In a recent statement, Róbert Puzsér declared he would not run in the opposition pre-election, but will continue his campaign for the municipal elections. This means that next to Gergely Karácsony, he would also be a challenger for Tarlós. Many think this would mean another victory for the incumbent Mayor.  Puzsér also stated that “Gyurcsány (leader of DK) and MSZP have “grinded the pre-election,” referring to the district mayoral candidacy selection process that is extremely disadvantageous for LMP and Jobbik.

Budapest Mayoral Candidate Puzsér to Represent ‘Green Minimum’

Interestingly, after Puzsér’s statement, LMP declared they were backing away from the independent candidate as the condition of the party’s support is for Puzsér to participate in the pre-election process. A day later, Puzsér announced he will continue his campaign but without party support, meaning his breaking away from Jobbik as well.

Taking part after its strong performance in the EP elections, Momentum nominated businessman Gábor Kerpel-Fronius, the leader of the party’s chapter in Budapest’s 13th district, as its candidate for Budapest mayor in the autumn local elections. The party also made it clear that should Socialist-Párbeszéd candidate Gergely Karácsony win the second round of the opposition pre-election ballot at the end of June, Momentum is ready to back him (again).

The political maneuvering can be the key for creating a better position in the districts between the opposition parties, but it could also lead to helping Tarlós win the election in the autumn.

In the featured photo: Budapest mayoral candidate Gergely Karácsony (front), and  Budapest Mayor István Tarlós (back). Photo by Noémi Bruzák/MTI