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István Tarlós – Interview

Hungary Today 2014.07.13.

István Tarlós, born in Budapest, is a Hungarian politician, Mayor of Budapest since 2010 and is currently the Fidesz’s candidate for the upcoming local government election of October, where he intends to become a two-term mayor of Budapest. In an interview for news portal mno.hu he talked about the new election system, the hot topics of the campaign and future of the city’s public sector.

For a question about the upcoming changes in the election system, where the Mayor of Budapest will serve for 5 years instead of 4, and where district mayors will be part of the city council, he replied:

Five year might be adequate to have enough time for work. However, it is not too new for me that district mayors will “come in” to the city council. I was one of the mayors back in 1990 (of district III.) of Budapest, those of which I am the only one who is still in office. Back then the city law stated that a major decision only can come into force only if the majority of district mayors agree. That system did not function that brightly, but the principle of direct representation surely strengthened. The needs, interests and income generating activities of the districts are very different. If I to remain mayor, I shall have a big role in keeping the debates sprung by conflict of interest at bay.

One of the key topics of the election is the new Metro line 4, a project that plagued the city financially for a decade, and Metro line 3, which suffered a lack of funds and is in dire need of refurbishment:

Our predecessors did nothing for the refurbishment of Metro line 3. Now they question us: what was the point of building Metro line 4, when there are not enough passengers, any why did Alstom supply the metro trains. Dear heaven! Was it us, who invented the new line, was it us who campaigned with it for 18 years, did we find Alstom as well? Far from it. They signed disadvantageous contracts, and we received a crocked “workpiece”. They started it, the project went sideways, we repaired it and completed Metro line 4. If it weren’t for us, everything would have collapsed.

The interview also mentions several “reliable sources”, backed by many papers, that Budapest could lose control of some of its public services, further diminishing the City Council’s importance and role:

The energy sector has been taken over by the state everywhere in Hungary. Last year they repurchased the German-owned 49.8% shares of Főgáz (Budapest Gas Provider), once soled in the Demszky-era, we then sold our part for EUR 135 million (42 billion HUF) to the state. Embezzlement was mentioned, but that is impossible by definition. The public provider will remain a public property, will not be filling private sector’s pockets, like before. Compared to the city’s property assessment, received a billion HUF more, and the income was free to use.