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Self-governments: A New Era of Cooperation?

Dénes Sályi 2019.11.05.

An interesting political situation was created by the municipal elections on October 13th in Hungary. In Budapest and in several big provincial cities, the allied opposition won, forming a majority in the local assemblies and giving them new mayors.

After the event, both the Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and Gergely Karácsony, the new mayor in the capital, declared that they were ready for cooperation instead of sharpening conflicts.

Orbán: Fidesz-KDNP Still Hungary’s Strongest Force

The future of these statements as a model can hardly be overestimated considering the distinguished role Budapest plays in the life of the country in a number of aspects. The capital, having over two million inhabitants, including its suburbs, produces nearly 40% of Hungary’s GDP, and its dominancy in education, culture and sciences, perhaps not so disproportionally, can also be perceived. And although promising and successful efforts have been made to develop alternative provincial economic centers to counterbalance the unhealthy overweight of Budapest, the present structure can not be altered overnight.

New Budapest Mayor Karácsony Accepts Orbán’s Invitation to Cabinet Meeting

Karácsony will have to maintain a many-coloured coalition. A great deal of compromise is predicted with the parties keeping an eye on each other’s activities. As a result, it is possible that corruption cases on such a large scale as they came up during the previous leftist-liberal coalition in the city will not appear. It won’t serve the interest of Momentum, Jobbik or LMP representatives, for example, to turn a blind eye to dirty businesses done, say, by DK (Democratic Coalition) or MSZP at the Town Hall. On the other hand, it’s not by chance that Viktor Orbán also set a conciliatory tone under the new circumstances. Although his position remained strong, with the allied opposition gaining some momentum, he can’t wage war against local governments lost by his party. It could only stimulate the fighting spirit of his opponents and verify the accusations of his tyranny, having a boomerang effect. Whereas, if he acts the wise statesman searching compromise, he can defuse the ammunition the opposition has accumulated and, unless the economy essentially deteriorates, may confidently face the coming general elections in 2022.

The Left-liberal Opposition Takes Over Budapest

It seems the most likely scenario now, despite inevitable conflicts and verbal clashes, both sides will attempt to make the minimally necessary compromises. Looking back, we can find examples of this from recent years, for instance in Szeged. Here László Botka, the Socialist mayor since 2002 (who has recently quit his party) was able to secure significant EU financial sources in recent years. The fact that he belongs to the opposition has basically done no harm to his town. Public interest would also require a certain level of cooperation between the two political sides, even if we know that peace can also be the ’continuation of war by other means.’ The double task of cooperation and fight will be more difficult for the opposition since, unlike Fidesz, they are not united.

Campaign Started to ‘Save’ 2023 Budapest World Championships in Athletics

Unless the parties of this rainbow alliance are formally united before 2022, which is quite unlikely at the moment, it is hard to imagine that different interests of theirs won’t be manifested. LMP is struggling for survival so they won’t provoke conflicts. Jobbik has enormously weakened and they will have to do something to demonstrate their independence from the leftist-liberal parties. MSZP (Socialists), though seemingly resurrected from its deathbed in October, essentially faces the same structural problems and the danger of melting into DK. Undoubtedly, DK and Momentum are the main beneficiaries of the present situation. It would be surprising if they didn’t have a fierce struggle for the leading role to challenge Fidesz in 2022.

Paradoxically, by losing some ground in the local elections, Fidesz acquired an opportunity to learn from its mistakes and build itself up for the next general elections. Whether they will make the best use of this lesson will be seen in less than three years.

Featured photo illustration via pixabay.com


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