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As epidemic data shows declining numbers, the government announced the end of country-wide free parking from the day after Pentecost on Monday, May 24th. While the administration pointed to epidemic-related reasons, free parking was criticized both politically and environmentally. Even many Fidesz mayors were not fans of it.

The government first implemented free parking in April 2020, discontinued it from July, and then reintroduced it in November together with the curfew, state of emergency, and other regulations as the second wave of the pandemic hit.

The Prime Minister had referred to maintaining the required distance from others. “Since this is impossible or only possible to a limited degree on crowded public transport vehicles, it’s important to make sure that those who are able to can use their own cars,” Orbán argued at the time. Easing the burden on public transport was also a commonly-voiced argument.

However, the regulation was debated from many sides. Those fearing for the environment argued with the increased car traffic.

In the case of Budapest and some other bigger cities, critics also pointed to parking difficulties. Similarly to the Budapest mayor, even some of the Fidesz mayors disliked the move. Both the 5th and 12th district mayors said that the introduction of free parking would harm the interests of local drivers and increase traffic in the districts; therefore, they wouldn’t support it.

In addition, Székesfehérvár’s Fidesz mayor also urged for a change, noting that the city falls short of some HUF 20-30 million (EUR 57-86,000) a month. Other city leaders also made local additions and modifications to the law where possible.

The opposition-led city or district councils also criticized the bill saying that they would once again be deprived of a major revenue stream amid a pandemic that had increased their duties and expenditures. In addition, one way or another, the central government also constantly takes income from their pockets, regardless of the coronavirus. Some of them even went so far as to argue that the goal was to systematically bleed out local governments. 9th district independent (but opposition-backed) mayor Krisztina Baranyi put their losses due to the lack of incoming parking fees to HUF 1 billion (EUR 2.9 million) in total.

featured image illustration via Csaba Jászai/MTVA