Voters’ third trip to the polls this year will be for the municipal elections on 12 October. As opposed to the parliamentary election in April and the European Union election in May where the governing Fidesz party won by landslides, the Budapest mayoral contest could even get exciting.
The reason above all is that Budapest, the “bastion of the left liberals”, has had a conservative mayor since 2010: István Tarlós. Between 1990 and 2010 Budapest was governed by the liberal Gábor Demszky and the Alliance of Free Democrats (SZDSZ). Tarlós, the Fidesz candidate, faces a number of challengers from the left and right. He is still the favourite to win but commentators think it is possible he may lose.
Tarlós himself has told state news agency MTI that “theoretically anything can happen”, though he is positive. He says he has recorded numerous achievements since 2010, including the completion of construction of Metro 4, modernisation of the transport fleet (primarily buses), a renovation program for sewerage and many investments in public spaces. He said the international reputation of Budapest has improved a lot in the past four years, to the extent that it “smells different” from four years ago.
For the next four years Tarlós offers numerous large projects, among them renovation of Margaret Island, expansion of Budapest Zoo, the next renewal phase of the gas factory in Óbuda, the replacement of 600 buses and the Metro 1 (Földalatti) fleet, completing the extension of tram line 1, and renewal of tram line 2, the Danube transport fleet, the so-called centipede bridge near Puskás Ferenc stadium, the Chain Bridge and Metro 3.
On the homeless, Tarlós says he primarily wants to improve the social situation and many steps have already been taken in this direction in the past four years. But it must not happen that people who lived under circumstances not meant for human beings to bear could make the “functional points” of the city “unbearable” zones. He said this problem does not only concern the few thousand homeless but all the 1.7 million people living in Budapest.
Left candidate makes vague statements
Ferenc Falus, the common leftist candidate of the MSZP, the Democratic Coalition (DK) led by former prime minister Ferenc Gyurcsány (2004-2009) and Together-Dialogue for Hungary, has made one of his biggest splashes so far with an Ice Bucket Challenge. Falus has not given away many details of his program, only a few vague statements: he will address the needs of people and create a caring, developed, healthy and green city.
According to Falus, this can only be achieved if all members of the city council from the 23 districts will be rowing in the same direction. He intends to finance the renewal of Metro 3 by using the billions of forints budgeted for the planned relocation of the Prime Minister’s Office to the Castle District. Falus promises to “continually publish” his program for Budapest.
Jobbik wants to break away from Demszky era
Radical-right party Jobbik’s candidate for mayor is the same person they presented at the previous municipal election: Gábor Staudt. He promises not only to spend money economically and carefully as mayor but also to break away from the bad habits carried on from the past. Staudt wants to close down the “20 years of Demszky era” and its “criminality”. According to him, under Demszky the style was extravagance and borderless corruption.
Staudt is critical of an “opposition” between the government and Budapest. He says there are “ample resources” for investments that “serve the comfort of the government” but there is still no money to renew Metro 3. Staudt says Parliament must pass a “Budapest law” that clearly outlines the responsibility of the state, the capital and the districts.
He wants to organise a “civil protection” service in the whole territory of Budapest to make the capital safer. The homeless should be helped if they are willing to be helped, but if they “want to continue living on the streets” they should be handled by “means of the police”.
LMP wants greener capital
Antal Csárdi, the candidate of green party LMP, wants Budapest to be given back to its citizens. Csárdi alleges the city leadership under Demszky and Tarlós has criminally neglected voters for the past 25 years. Real estate speculators and robber barons in the city leadership and in the individual districts had plundered the city. LMP’s goal was that citizens should be involved in decisions and the implementation of programs.
Csárdi says a better organised public transport system would result in a more liveable city with better air. He wants to create a 100-hectare green surface in total in the city – about the size of City Park – by banning construction in these areas. These additional green oases would significantly improve the air of the capital.
Former minister of finance Lajos Bokros (1995-1996) will represent his party Movement for a Modern Hungary (MoMa), with the support of Demszky, who says Bokros’ financial expertise makes him the right person to steer Budapest.
The Hungarian Liberal Party (MLP), led by Gábor Fodor, who was one of the founders of Fidesz, has nominated Zoltán Bodnár as mayor. Bodnár wants to make Budapest the “city of freedom” and a place of progressive spirit. He promises to resist the initiatives of Fidesz for centralisation and to practise zero tolerance against homophobia, racism and corruption.
Bodnár says government contracts should not be distributed on the basis of political loyalty. In general he would like to make Budapest a “creative European capital of the 21st century”.
Finally, the Hungarian Civilian Party of the Social Democrats led by Andor Schmuck, once a member of MSZP, is backing former trade union leader Kornél Árok.