Local Elections: The Main Battles to Pay Attention To
Péter Cseresnyés 2019.10.10.
This year’s municipal elections promise to be exciting in many ways. The government parties intend to win everywhere in the country, but for the first time in years, members of the opposing political camp have made their response: extensive cooperation across the country that hasn’t been seen before. As a result of their decision, we can expect a serious political competition in many places on October 13th. In this summary, we have collected the undecided cities especially worth paying attention to.
We are focusing on the mayoral candidates but it is also important to note that, in addition to them, the power relations that develop in the general assemblies are also of great importance. After all, a mayor, who has to work with a representative body where the members of the political rival camp are in majority, usually have a rather difficult job.
The city has been under right-wing political leadership for 28 years. In 2018, however, independent Péter Márki-Zay won with more than 57% of the votes by the mid-term mayoral election. This election was the first time that a full opposition cooperation was achieved in the city of former PMO head János Lázár (he is the local MP there).
Márki-Zay’s campaign became the model of the large-scale opposition cooperation that was accomplished for the first time this year. This is why winning here has a symbolic significance for both political sides.
Incumbent Mayor of Gödöllő, György Gémesi has been leading the town since the regime change and received over 78% of the votes in the municipal elections in 2014.
His main rival, Csaba Kolozs is the local Fidesz candidate for mayor, whose campaign even the prime minister tried to help with a quick visit. Although Gémesi’s last victory seems more than convincing, many say his approval in the city has deteriorated in past years due to his strongly government-critical approach which resulted in not getting state funds for development.
The victory of Zsolt Borkai (Fidesz-KDNP) was overwhelming in 2014, winning by 61%, especially if we take into account that four candidates were against him. Based on the result of his last local election result, he seems to be by far the most likely candidate, but his recently leaked sex video and alleged corruption scandal could easily cut down on his popularity.
In 2014, the current mayor Gábor Cserna (Fidesz-KDNP), secured his victory with 45% while having four challengers. Now only three candidates are fighting for the mayoral seat, and opposition parties have also lined up behind the Jobbik candidate. This way the opposition chances are looking good.
In the second-largest city of Northern Hungary, the main opponent of the current mayor, László Habis (Fidesz-KDNP), will again be Ádám Mirkóczki, a Jobbik MP. Five years ago, Habis received 38% of the votes, while Mirkóczki secured only 26%. Unlike the last municipal election, MSZP, DK, LMP, and Momentum are also behind the Jobbik candidate. Thus, his chance to win on Sunday has significantly increased.
In Miskolc, the current mayor Ákos Kriza (of Fidesz) will not run for office again. Instead, his former colleague and city notary Zoltán Alakszai will compete with the support of the governing Fidesz party.
Since not only the opposition parties but two civilian associations are also backing local school principle Pál Veres and Fidesz has a new candidate, the opposition candidate may stand a chance at victory.
Miskolc was also one of the cities next to Szeged, which Orbán highlighted as important cities to “join the government” in his speech at the recently held Fidesz Congress and one of the two he visited in the campaign finish (besides Gödöllő).
In 2014, Ferenc Kovács (Fidesz-KDNP) won the mayoral seat by 47% but this year he’ll have to face only one opponent supported by every major opposition party.
The current mayor, Zsolt Páva (Fidesz), will not run again. Fidesz instead stood behind Olympic water polo champion Attila Vári. All parties excluding LMP have joined the opposition candidate, which gives them enough chance to win the election even though all constituencies (19) were won by Fidesz in 2014.
Joint opposition mayoral candidate László Botka won by an absolute majority, 58% in 2014. He is competing for the mayoral seat for the fourth time since 2002.
In 2017, he was elected as the Prime Ministerial candidate of the Socialist Party (MSZP). In October of the same year, he withdrew his candidacy because in his view, political forces were trying to edge him out. He later blamed them for failing to achieve his goal to unite all democratic opposition forces.
In 2014, Tivadar Puskás (Fidesz-KDNP) defeated the Socialist Mayor György Ipkovich by just a few hundred votes. In the general assembly, the ratio of the local Fidesz and opposition representatives were even (7-7).
After the deputy mayor joined the opposition, they managed to take control in the general assembly. Fidesz-KDNP is launching a new candidate, Péter Balázsy, who will have two opponents in the fight to break the political tide.
The election results of the Hungarian capital are considered to be the most important both symbolically and literally. The latest polls show rather divided results in the candidates’ approval ratings, depending on which political side they are affiliated with. At the same time, it appears that the current mayor, István Tarlós, is most likely to stay in charge of Budapest. At the same time, the leeway of joint opposition candidate Gergely Karácsony doesn’t seem to be impossible, but the other two (independent) candidates can take away precious votes from him.
In addition to the position of Budapest mayor, serious battles can be expected in certain districts of the capital as well.
Zugló (14th district of Budapest)
In 2014, Gergely Karácsony and the left-wing partnership managed to win this district with almost 43%.
This time, the opposition launched Csaba Horváth due to Karácsony’s nomination for Budapest mayor. Fidesz will introduce Zoltán Rozgonyi who received almost 40% of the votes five years ago. With a total of five candidates fighting for the mayoral seat in the district, his chances might be even higher.
Terézváros (6th district of Budapest)
Only two mayoral candidates will be running for office in this district, so it could be the perfect place to observe what the opposition’s cooperation could achieve in Budapest. In 2014, the victory of Zsófia Hassay (Fidesz-KDNP) was quite convincing, winning by 49.34% with five candidates up against her. Now her only challenger is Tamás Soproni (Momentum, MSZP, DK, Párbeszéd, LMP).
Featured photo illustration by Zsolt Szigetváry/MTI