Monday

5th Dec 2022

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

Become an expert on Europe

Get 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.

Portugal was poised to scrap 'Golden Visas' - why didn't it?

Over the last 10 years, Portugal has given 1,470 golden visas to people originating from countries whose tax-transparency practices the EU finds problematic. But unlike common practice in other EU states with similar programmes, Portugal has not implemented "due diligence".

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP27: Food systems transformation for climate action
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region and the African Union urge the COP27 to talk about gender equality
  3. International Sustainable Finance CentreJoin CEE Sustainable Finance Summit, 15 – 19 May 2023, high-level event for finance & business
  4. Friedrich Naumann Foundation European DialogueGender x Geopolitics: Shaping an Inclusive Foreign Security Policy for Europe
  5. Obama FoundationThe Obama Foundation Opens Applications for its Leaders Program in Europe
  6. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos

Latest News

  1. Hungary's funds showdown in focus This WEEK
  2. EU must break Orbán's veto on a tax rate for multinationals
  3. Belarus dictator's family loves EU luxuries, flight data shows
  4. How Berlin and Paris sold-out the EU corporate due diligence law
  5. Turkey's EU-funded detention centres ripe with abuse: NGO
  6. In green subsidy race, EU should not imitate US
  7. EU Commission proposes suspending billions to Hungary
  8. EU: Russian assets to be returned in case of peace treaty

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Committee of the RegionsRe-Watch EURegions Week 2022
  2. UNESDA - Soft Drinks EuropeCall for EU action – SMEs in the beverage industry call for fairer access to recycled material
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic prime ministers: “We will deepen co-operation on defence”
  4. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  6. European Centre for Press and Media FreedomEuropean Anti-SLAPP Conference 2022

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us