Orban ally loses Budapest mayoral race
Budapest’s newly elected liberal mayor, Gergely Karacsony (pictured), has celebrated a strong performance by the opposition in Hungary’s municipal elections, saying the results mark the start of a fightback against populist Prime Minister Viktor Orban.
The votes covered in excess of 8 million people in contests for more than 3,000 mayors and 17,200 municipal council members elected for a five-year term.
Karacsony, 44, a former political scientist who was backed jointly by several opposition parties, won 51 per cent of the vote in the capital on Sunday to beat long-time mayor Istvan Tarlos, who was backed by Orban’s ruling far-right Fidesz.
The release of a secret sex video of Fidesz’s best-known mayor, Zsolt Borkai, has dented the party’s image. The video purportedly shows Borkai at an orgy on a yacht. The married father-of-two and former Olympic gold medallist is the conservative mayor of Gyor and an Orban supporter.
The conservative Fidesz, which casts itself as a defender of Christian and family values, and opposes the influx of refugees in the country, called it a “private matter” but the scandal has shaken Orban.
“This victory is not the victory of the co-operating opposition, but the victory of the people of Budapest,” Karacsony told the media.
“This victory is about a green and free Budapest. This victory was about how the power of the people is stronger than the people in power, how love and co-operation always overcome hatred and how reality in the end trumps lies,” he told supporters.
“An opposition unity that voters have long expected has been formed, and the result tells us this is the path to take onwards . . . Changing Budapest and the major cities is the first step towards changing Hungary. ”
The opposition is due to hold a majority in Budapest’s general assembly and to take office in 10 of 23 main Hungarian cities.
It is Orban’s first major domestic defeat since returning to office in 2010, pointing to falling popularity for the strong man leader over health care, education and other services. There are also repeated allegations of corruption and sleaze involving Fidesz members.
But Fidesz won a majority of votes and maintained its grip on most major cities and all 19 county councils.
Orban thanked Tarlos for his nine years as Budapest mayor. He said while the city had lost a mayor he had “gained an excellent adviser”.
“He dragged the city out of bankruptcy, thanks to which we have such a beautiful capital today, we can be proud of it,” the anti-migrant premier said.
“Today, the citizens of Budapest have decided that the time has come for something different. We accept this decision. In the interests of the country and the citizens of Budapest, we are ready to co-operate.”
Gergely Karacsony. Picture credit: Wikimedia