Hungarian Press Roundup: Possible Effects of the Opposition Breakthrough at the Local Elections
Hungary Today 2019.11.05.
After losing ten consecutive local and national elections by a landslide majority, the opposition won mayoral posts in 11 out of 23 major cities throughout Hungary on 13 October. The surprise development still gives commentators ample food for thought.
In Demokrata, Gábor Bencsik ascribes the setback Fidesz suffered in Budapest and other large settlements to its inability to communicate its successes. The opposition, the pro-government analyst writes, successfully framed the government side as an enemy of green areas, wantonly replacing trees with hectares of concrete. In reality, he argues, an unprecedented 10 thousand trees were planted during the 9-year administration of Mayor István Tarlós. Another issue which cost the government side dear was the state of hospitals in the capital. Throughout the country, Bencsik remarks, regional hospitals have been refurbished, mainly using EU cohesion funds. Budapest ranks near the EU average in terms of per capita income and therefore did not get EU financing for the same purpose. Thus, the rebuilding of the capital’s hospitals is five years behind schedule. Bencsik thinks Fidesz should have been able to explain this. His third example is the state of poverty in Hungary. The government stands accused of only caring for the upper middle classes, and failed to challenge that narrative, although since 2010 the ratio of people living in poverty has fallen from 31,5 to 19,6 per cent, which is just below the EU average, he writes.
In Magyar Nemzet, Izabella Bencze warns the new Mayor of Budapest not to try to cancel the big construction projects planned or already underway in the capital. A project to create a Museum Quarter with several new buildings in and around the City Park was approved by Parliament, and as such cannot be scrapped by the city council, despite the promises made by Karácsony in his campaign, she writes. The athletic stadium intended to host the 2023 World Championship and the handball hall that will be the main venue of the 2022 European Championship are subject to international agreements that stipulate huge compensation in case Hungary withdraws from them. The campaign is over, she writes. Budapest was ranked the seventh most visited European city in 2010 by Euromonitor International, while last year it was number one. Bencze calls on Karácsony to try and preserve that ranking.
In Magyar Narancs, László Haskó finds the satisfaction expressed by MSZP leaders over the outcome of the local elections totally unfounded. On the contrary, he believes the Socialist Party is on the verge of disappearing from the political scene altogether. The breakthrough of opposition candidates in several cities, he argues, was due to unaffiliated citizens rather than to political parties, and least of all the MSZP, he argues. The Socialists, he continues, have failed to produce an acceptable candidate to represent them nationwide. This was why they allied themselves with Gergely Karácsony who, as shown by a leaked conversation ahead of the vote, finds their performance and moral standards equally dismal. It is certainly not by mere coincidence, Haskó suggests, that the re-elected Mayor of Szeged has just quit the MSZP after 25 years of successful militancy there. The liberal author attributes the MSZP’s failure to what he describes as its ‘opportunistic and cowardly policies in opposition’.
On hvg.hu, Marxist philosopher Gáspár Miklós Tamás finds the style of campaigning in Hungary abominable. He protests first of all against the illegal use of tapping and filming scenes from the private lives of politicians. He doesn’t justify the sex escapades in which the Mayor of Győr was involved and which circulated widely on the internet during the campaign. He believes nevertheless that decent outlets should not reproduce illegally obtained material, no matter how useful they might find it for political or sales purposes. The same refers to the illegally taped conversation in which a local Socialist council member boasts about the money he and others, including the (since re-elected) district Mayor make through bribes. Tamás also remarks that in other democratic countries such people would disappear from politics forever, while in Hungary that doesn’t seem to be the case. A few are being sacrificed, but the rest remain unscathed, he writes. In a final remark, Tamás lambasts the rough language often used nowadays in political discourse. Vulgar expressions that are perfectly acceptable in private conversations have broken through into the public sphere, which is utterly degrading for public life in Hungary, he concludes.