Only 47 days after his campaign was launched Ferenc Falus has quit as the leftist candidate for Budapest mayor. Conservative Lajos Bokros is now wooing his voters.
Originally put forward by the opposition E-PM party alliance, Falus was backed by the Democratic Coalition (DK) and had the grudging support of the Socialists. He dropped out at a press conference on Monday after a lacklustre campaign that indicated impending defeat.
Lajos Bokros, the mayoral candidate of his conservative Movement for a Modern Hungary (MoMa), was present at the event. Viktor Szigetvári, co-leader of the Együtt party, and DK head Ferenc Gyurcsány pledged support for Bokros.
In the 12 October election the choice will be “between democracy and dictatorship”, Bokros, a former finance minister under a social-liberal government, said. He challenged incumbent Mayor István Tarlós, of the ruling Fidesz party, to a TV debate.
Zsolt Gréczy, spokesman for the leftist opposition DK, told commercial broadcaster ATV that DK agreed with Bokros’ main goals, such as democracy, a market economy and expanding freedoms. Bokros has a more serious political past than Falus and he is economically better equipped, Gréczy said.
The opposition Dialogue for Hungary (PM) party, which is a member of the E-PM alliance, said it would not support Bokros.
The situation caused hesitation in the Hungarian Socialist Party (MSZP). Ágnes Kunhalmi, the president of the Budapest chapter, said it was important that Tarlós should have a single challenger. She said the Socialists would discuss whether to support Bokros and with what conditions.
Later that day Gergely Bárándy, the head of the Socialists’ ethics committee, said the MSZP should not support Bokros. “If the Socialists want to stay faithful to their principles, they cannot support a politician that identifies with the right,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Budapest chapter voted on whether to support Bokros and he received around two-thirds of the votes. “We don’t have any other chance of winning two weeks before the election,” a Socialist party member said. “That’s the only way to beat Tarlós and win in most of the districts.”
András Schiffer, co-leader of the green LMP, called it “ridiculous” that parties of the left should support Bokros, who “spent five years in a eurosceptic and conservative group of the European Parliament”.
Lajos Kósa, managing deputy leader of ruling Fidesz, called the developments “farcical”, and suggested that “the whole team [the leftist parties] would be sent off” if the election were a sports match.
Kósa insisted that Bokros was an advocate of “property tax and pay-for-health services and education”. He compared Bokros to the every-flavour jelly beans in Harry Potter, saying that “you cannot tell in advance whether he would taste like strawberries or bad eggs”.