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Gergely Karácsony, the joint leftist-liberal opposition candidate for Budapest mayor, presented his election programme on Sunday, in which he pledged to build a free, green, and socially inclusive city.

Karácsony said he sought to be “a strong leader, not an arrogant one, for a strong community”.

He insisted that the city’s mayor “should be on good terms with residents rather than with the government”, as opposed to what István Tarlós, the incumbent mayor, has advocated.

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The confidence of having a say in public decisions needs to be returned to people, Karácsony said. “It’s the job of city leaders to open the doors when the people want to weigh in on matters,” he said.

The candidate said he insisted on having a public discussion with Tarlós, and added that he was not familiar with Tarlós’ programme.

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Concerning details of his programme, Karácsony said he would initiate a dialogue with local residents to draw up a “Budapest constitution” outlining the “basic values of representing voters”.

As mayor, Karácsony said he would work together with the districts to “re-establish” healthcare services, fill vacant physician positions and finance screening programmes. He argued that it was a “scandal of global proportion” that 80 percent of Hungarians over 75 die of conditions that could be prevented through better services. “No sports stadiums will be built before each district has a CT scanner of their own,” he insisted. He also added that he would address the housing crisis, and noted it as the source of a number of maladies.

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Karácsony also pledged to grant needy pensioners and big families an annual 20,000 forints to help with their heating bills.

Concerning his plans to make the city greener, Karácsony said that one million trees were “missing” in Budapest, and promised to plant some 15,000 a year, about as many as the number of babies born in the city annually. He mentioned plans to plant a large forest in the north of Csepel Island and adjacent District 9, as well as creating a 10-kilometre-long green corridor between Margaret and Hajógyári islands.

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Budapest currently has too many cars, and the city should offer modern and comfortable alternatives to driving, Karácsony said. He said that under his leadership the city could cut public transport prices and would make public transport free for children under age 14 for a start.

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Karácsony said it was a “myth” that the government “brings money to Budapest”, adding that the reality was “just the opposite”. He argued that a mere 2 percent of the revenues generated in the city was left in place, therefore “the city must use its own resources” and voiced hope that Budapest could win more direct subsidies from the European Union in the next cycle.

Featured photo by Lajos Soós/MTI

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