Although there hasn’t been complete harmony within the opposition leadership of the capital, the Budapest Assembly still voted in a tougher stance regarding the Athletics World Championship. While the decision leaves the door open for an agreement with the Orbán administration, leading politicians have begun a verbal battle doubting each other’s seriousness.
As we previously reported, Gergely Karácsony announced last Thursday that he would propose to the Budapest general assembly a withdrawal of their decision to host the 2023 World Athletics Championships. He said he chose to do so after government forces had begun to vote in laws concerning Fudan and to outsource public assets in the foundation overseeing the Chinese University, which the opposition claims would be established and built at the expense of the Student City project.
Disharmony in the opposition after Karácsony’s announcement
Karácsony’s move has reportedly generated some friction between the opposition parties as well. 8th district mayor András Pikó called for an agreement with the central government, fearing for the Healthy Budapest funds, saying that “it is our common responsibility to step out of the logic of political vendetta and prevent further acts of government revenge.” Momentum president András Fekete-Győr was also critical of the move, saying that there was a “catfight” going on in City Hall on the WC and Fudan, and called the move “impetuous,” similarly fearing for the monies already dealt out to the central government. Pikó, together with Momentum, even handed in a modification proposal on the withdrawal of support.
While the Budapest Socialist Party (MSZP) said they supported plans for the athletics world championships to be held in the city “but support even more” the construction of the Student City, adding, however, that the opposition had “no other option left but to exert political pressure on the government.” Democratic Coalition (DK), on the other hand, was going for a total veto.
18-14 at the vote
Therefore, the “if” in the Budapest Assembly’s eventual decision is the result of negotiations after the disharmony between the opposition parties. So in the end, they accepted Pikó’s and Momentum’s proposal which leaves the door open for an agreement with the Orbán government.
Fidesz: vote has no legal relevance
Deputies from the ruling parties said that the city’s withdrawal of support from the championships had “no legal relevance.” Concerning the health program, they said that the necessary financing was in place, but “there are delays in payments.”
A referendum to eventually end the debate?
Meanwhile, Telex has noted that the Budapest leadership’s move perhaps couldn’t step beyond politics, following the Hungarian Athletics Federation’s (MASZ) announcement that since the municipality of Budapest is not a signatory to the agreement, it has no authority to make decisions concerning the event.
On the other hand, Fudan University’s debated arrival, the government’s secrecy, and controversial moves on the topic (specifically the one that triggered Karácsony’s reaction), will not be without consequences after the National Election Committee gave the green-light to his referendum proposal on the establishment of the Chinese University.
Karácsony: World athletic championships not to be held in a city that is against it
However, referring to his talks with the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF), Karácsony said it was clear that “world championships cannot be held in a city which does not support the event.”
The assembly authorized the mayor to inform the IAAF about the decision should the government transfer the site on which the student complex would be built to the Fudan project. The assembly also called on the government not to continue with the Fudan project before a referendum was held on the contested scheme.
Innovation Minister Palkovics: The circus goes on, Karácsony is “scrambling”
Following Wednesday’s developments, the case’s two leading, opposing politicians have verbally gone toe-to-toe. The Minister for Innovation and Technology called Karácsony’s move a “scrambling attempt,” explaining that the conditions imposed by Karácsony are frivolous and incomprehensible, as it wasn’t the government that passed the law on Fudan, but parliament (in fact, the bill was only voted in by the ruling parties). He said he fails to understand why Karácsony talked about a veto the day before if he didn’t have the assembly voting on it eventually.
Palkovics also explained that he started to have a “bad feeling” after Karácsony’s statement, accusing the Párbeszéd politician of his main concern no longer being the Student City, but the valuable land, envisioning luxury marina apartments on the site and recalling that Karácsony recently described the area as having the most potential to be developed in Hungary.
The minister attributes the mayor’s “inconsistency” and “frivolousness” to his campaign for prime minister.
Mayor Karácsony: Palkovics is a “pathological liar”
“So the government’s perhaps biggest pathological liar has spoken,” Karácsony began his response. “Mr Palkovics, minister responsible for the Chinese influence, who has already lied so much about Fudan and Student City that he himself got very confused at our last meeting,” reacted Karácsony.
“And now this man has the audacity to talk about us wanting ‘luxury apartments’ or ‘luxury marinas’ instead of the Student City. I wonder what he had in mind? Something as luxurious as the Prime Minister’s family estate in Hatvanpuszta? Or a port that could accommodate the yachts of Mészáros and Szíjjj, so that the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister could go on holiday straight from there, without having to fly on a state plane with taxpayers’ money? Is this the vision of the minister who has already poured HUF 14 billion (EUR 40.2 million) of public money into the Fudan Foundation?”, Karácsony said.
featured image: the Budapest Assembly yesterday (mayor Karácsony with his deputies); by Attila Kovács/MTI