Tuesday

27th Feb 2024

Hungarian opposition wins Budapest in blow to Orban

  • New Budapest mayor Gergely Karacsony (here meeting with regional policy commissioner Corina Cretu in 2018) (Photo: European Commission)

In a surprise win, the Hungarian opposition challenger defeated prime minister Viktor Orban's candidate in the Budapest mayoral race on Sunday (13 October), in a major blow for the nationalistic premier and his ruling Fidesz party.

Gergely Karacsony beat the incumbent Istvan Tarlos with 50.1 percent of the votes to 44.8 percent in a race that also saw opposition candidates win several provincial towns in the country dominated by Orban's Fidesz.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Get the EU news that really matters

Instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

The result, which Karacsony called "historic", is an upset for Orban's party, which has not suffered a major electoral defeat since it came to power in 2010.

"We will wake up in another country, one that has started taking back its freedom," Karacsony told a cheering crowd on Sunday evening.

"Love and cooperation always defeats hate. Lies are always defeated by reality in which people live their lives. Budapest will be green and free," the 44-year-old Karacsony said, who himself hails from a green party, Dialogue, and has been supported by four other opposition parties.

"This is the first step to change Hungary," the former political scientist said in his victory speech, adding "we will take Budapest back to Europe".

Opposition parties gained a majority in the Budapest assembly as well, and won mayoral seats in 10 major cities, while Fidesz won in 13 others. Fidesz also lost several districts in Budapest.

"We accept the decision of the voters in Budapest and we will cooperate with the new mayor," Orban said after the results came in.

"Fidesz is still the strongest party in Hungary," he added.

New chapter?

Budapest follows Istanbul and Warsaw in a line of capitals where opposition parties came to power while the countries are run by nationalist strongmen.

Opposition candidates won despite Fidesz opponents enjoying the support of the public and Fidesz-dominated media and government backing.

The campaign has been the nastiest in the country's recent democratic history, with leaked videos and audio recordings, and with Fidesz accusing opposition candidates of wanting to bring in migrants to Hungary.

In one leaked video, the Fidesz mayor of a western town, Gyor, who was seen at an orgy on a yacht. Although he maintained his seat, the sex scandal likely galvanised voters.

The election results are likely to give a boost to opposition parties. Throughout the country civil society groups, political parties on the left and the far-right have joined forces against Fidesz candidates.

"Hungary's poll elections prove that cooperation works, the opposition reached its best result in 13 years with this strategy," Andras Biro-Nagy, an analyst with Policy Solutions tweeted.

Fidesz has a two-thirds majority in parliament and could still curb municipal rights, making it difficult for opposition mayors to achieve concrete results.

"A new chapter is starting in Hungary! Change is happening tonight all over the country, the local Hungarian elections are serving as a demonstration that people believe in democracy," MEP Anna Donath from the liberal Momentum party, also backing Karacsony, tweeted.

Hungary claims EU 'witch-hunt' over rule of law hearing

Hungary was quizzed by EU ministers over its domestic crackdown on media, judges, academia and NGOs. Hungary's minister responded by saying the country had defended "the European way of life" for centuries, and it should be respected.

Hungary faces EU court for starving migrants

The European Commission is one step away from taking Hungary to court if it does not offer a credible explanation for why it denied detained migrants food in its transit zones along the Serbian border.

Hungary's Orban wins another term, Jobbik support jumps

Hungary's centre-right Prime Minister Viktor Orban was handed another four years in government after national elections on Sunday, early results show, while the far-right Jobbik scooped a fifth of the votes.

Analysis

Orban, the 'anti-Merkel', emboldens European right

Hungary's premier Viktor Orban has inspired 'illiberalism' across central Europe and far-right politicians in the West. His expected re-election this Sunday will further reinforce his standing as a symbol for being tough on Europe's political mainstream.

Opinion

Why is Orban 'nationalising' three Budapest public squares?

Since Gergely Karacsony was elected Green mayor of Budapest in 2019, Viktor Orban's government has actively worked not only to constrict the capital's budget, and thereby impede its operations, but also to appropriate urban areas and monopolise large-scale development.

United anti-Orban opposition pins hopes on primaries

The primaries have been organised by a newly-united opposition alliance, with voting taking place in person and online. Over 633,000 people have cast ballots - around 25 percent of all opposition votes cast in 2018.

Investigation

Far-right MEPs least disciplined in following party line

In a fractious parliamentary vote, the level of party discipline often decides the fate of legislation. Party discipline among nationalists and far-right MEPs is the weakest, something potentially significant after the June elections. Data by Novaya Gazeta Europe and EUobserver.

Latest News

  1. For Ukraine's sake, pass the EU due diligence directive
  2. All of Orbán's MPs back Sweden's Nato entry
  3. India makes first objection to EU carbon levy at WTO summit
  4. Angry farmers block Brussels again, urge fix to 'unfair' prices
  5. Luxembourg denies blind spot on Nato security vetting
  6. Record rate-profits sees EU banks give shareholders €120bn
  7. Why the EU silence on why Orban's €10bn was unblocked?
  8. Far-right MEPs least disciplined in following party line

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic Food Systems Takeover at COP28
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersHow women and men are affected differently by climate policy
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersArtist Jessie Kleemann at Nordic pavilion during UN climate summit COP28
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP28: Gathering Nordic and global experts to put food and health on the agenda
  5. Friedrich Naumann FoundationPoems of Liberty – Call for Submission “Human Rights in Inhume War”: 250€ honorary fee for selected poems
  6. World BankWorld Bank report: How to create a future where the rewards of technology benefit all levels of society?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsThis autumn Europalia arts festival is all about GEORGIA!
  2. UNOPSFostering health system resilience in fragile and conflict-affected countries
  3. European Citizen's InitiativeThe European Commission launches the ‘ImagineEU’ competition for secondary school students in the EU.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region is stepping up its efforts to reduce food waste
  5. UNOPSUNOPS begins works under EU-funded project to repair schools in Ukraine
  6. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsGeorgia effectively prevents sanctions evasion against Russia – confirm EU, UK, USA

Join EUobserver

EU news that matters

Join us