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Tag: Gergely Karácsony

Karácsony: Voters Sent a Message with Special Elections Results

László Vasvári won a seat in the Újpest Municipality by-elections on Sunday as the joint candidate for MSZP, Dialogue, LMP, Momentum, Jobbik, and DK, the parties that also ran joint candidates in April’s parliamentary elections. Vasvári’s 47.7% of the vote beat the pro-government candidate, Fruzsina Drabant, who only managed to get 40.7%.

However, Vasvári was the lone opposition winner in the capital on Sunday, as pro-government candidates won in two other Budapest races where special municipal elections were also held. The Fidesz-KDNP nominee won elections for local governments seats in Józsefváros and in the neighboring Erzsébetváros, both replacing DK members in their respective districts.

Budapest Mayor Gergely Karácsony admitted his disappointment with the result on social media:

Can’t deny it, it was a disappointing result.

The Mayor argued that the opposition’s current attitude of “if we can’t defeat Fidesz, we’ll defeat each other” isn’t leading anywhere.

He also wrote that “voters have sent a message: wake up!” [HVG]

Gov’t Taking Away Three Prime Downtown Areas from Budapest, Karácsony Vows to Sue

Mayor Gergely Karácsony is up in arms at plans by the Hungarian government to nationalize three public spaces in downtown Budapest, reports HVG. The Mayor objected in a Wednesday Facebook post to capital-owned Frigyes Podmaniczky Square, Vörösmarty Square, and István Széchenyi Square becoming the property of the state without compensation.

The state plans to transfer these in September to the District V municipal government’s asset management holdings through Hungarian National Asset Management (MNV) Zrt. The suggestion was reportedly the brainchild of former District V Mayor and Prime Minister’s Cabinet Office head Antal Rogán.

Gergely Karácsony called the nationalization of the three “extremely important” spaces without compenation unconstitutional, and vowed to sue if such a law is passed.

In his post, the Mayor asked:

Anyway, why? Because District V is so bloody good at managing public property? Do they want to serve the hotel development plans of István Tiborcz’s business partner in Széchenyi Square? Or fatten the vendors in Vörösmarty Square? Or do they just want to show that they can do anything they want, and that not even property rights can stop them?

The District V Municipality responded to the Mayor’s comments in a statement released on Thursday:

The two squares in District V are maintained by the capital, but Gergely Karácsony is their irresponsible, careless owner: neglect, burned grass, dirt, and rubbish have been features of these popular public spaces for years, even though they could be impressive parts of downtown Budapest.

The municipality also noted that it had renovated Podmaniczky Square and Vörösmarty Square in 2019 with aid from the state, and that Fidesz District V Mayor Péter Szentgyörgyvölgyi had repeatedly told city leaders that the district would take over the maintenance of public spaces. [HVG]

Karácsony: Different Nominee Would Not Have Changed Election Result

“I strongly doubt that we would have had a fundamentally different result if anyone else had been the nominee for prime minister,” said Budapest Mayor Gergely Karácsony, one of the candidates running for the position himself on the opposition side, to Inforádió. Karácsony was responding to the question of whether in retrospect it had been a good idea to withdraw his candidacy in favor of Péter Márki-Zay, the eventual nominee.

“I determined that with Péter Márki-Zay as the prime ministerial nominee, the opposition would be better able to project itself as building a future-oriented politics,” the Mayor told Inforádió. [444]

Dialogue to Replace its Entire Leadership

The entire leadership at the head of Dialogue for Hungary will now be replaced after Tímea Szabó said she would not be running again for the co-chair position at the party’s congress, expected at the end of summer or early in September, HVG.hu has learned. She shared the decision with her colleagues in Dialogue in a closed Facebook group on Wednesday.

Szabó wrote that she made this decision after fellow Co-Chair Gergely Karácsony similarly said he wouldn’t be running again.

Justifying her decision, the politician representing Óbuda said that although Dialogue was able to increase its number of MPs in the election earlier this month and form a six-person group in the next Parliament, Dialogue and its presidency also have to take responsibility for the opposition’s electoral defeat as one of the six parties in the coalition.

However, the news site writes that Tímea Szabó may still become leader of the new Dialogue parliamentary caucus. [HVG]

Karácsony Travels to Brussels to Ask EU for Funding

Budapest Mayor Gergely Karácsony was in Brussels over the weekend to tell the EU that “Hungary needs EU funds, and can only recover from the economic crisis and rising prices through European subsidies,” the mayor wrote on Facebook.

Karácsony wrote that the Hungarian government must adhere to democratic norms, and the EU should strengthen the role of local municipalities.

Appearing in the photo with his post was Benedek Jávor, the Mayor’s advisor for EU affairs.

In February, the European Parliament voted in favor of a report sponsored by Momentum MEP Katalin Cseh, which is designed to allow cities to apply for EU funding directly and circumvent state intervention in the process. [Magyar Hang]

Karácsony: rule of law itself not enough to win over a majority of Hungarians

picture of Gergely Karácsony

Although everyone on the opposition side is trying to evade responsibility for the huge election loss, Gergely Karácsony (pictured) hopes that they will start asking themselves certain questions, the mayor of Budapest told Telex.

For heaven’s sake, we failed massively. So anyone from the opposition who doesn’t have a sense of responsibility after that, who doesn’t ask themselves questions, or who feels they did everything right is, I think, a psychopath.

-the mayor told the news portal.

Karácsony also expects the political struggles within the opposition over the next two years to decide the leader of the alliance.

The mayor said it was a mistake to have made the election a “Fidesz – not Fidesz” choice, as undecided voters would only cast their vote for the opposition if they could see that the democratic parties had a vision for the future that went beyond just disavowing Fidesz.

He also pointed out that the opposition’s message turned elitist in the course of events, not because they didn’t recognize the situation for what it was, but because there was a consensus among the parties on these points. As he stated:

The problem was that what the opposition had to say was fundamentally important to many people, myself included – such as belonging to the West, and a democratic framework within the rule of law. But if these ideas alone were able to attract a majority of Hungarian society, then Viktor Orbán would not have been prime minister for the past 12 years.

For voters, democracy is not an abstract concept but a synonym for a secure livelihood, and Karácsony believes the opposition did not have an answer to this.

[HVG]

NAV raids Gábor Iványi’s charity as opposition holds rally in solidarity

picture of Gergely Karácsony, Gábor Iványi, Anna Donáth

Armed inspectors from Hungary’s tax authority NAV occupied buildings of the charity association run by Gábor Iványi in Budapest’s Józsefváros neighborhood on Monday morning in a tense encounter that lasted for most of the day.

Around 4:00pm, a stalemate broke out: while sympathizers of the Oltalom (Protection) Charity Association pushed Gábor Iványi up the stairs, NAV employees held down the front line with their backs so that no one could go up them.

In the evening, the opposition parties quickly organized a rally in solidarity with the Methodist pastor on Budapest’s Dankó Street, where representatives of the united opposition as well as Iványi himself spoke as NAV’s armed agents confiscated and removed documents and computers from the premises.

Telex received word later in the evening that one person at the event who had pushed a NAV agent to the ground had been arrested on-site.

Speaking at the impromptu event, András Jámbor, the united opposition’s joint candidate in the district, said that the state owes about 12 billion Ft. (US $38.2 million) in subsides to Iványi’s organizations, which provide public services. And yet the authorities send their enforcers to pick on those who just want to help the community, he said.

András Pikó, mayor of District VIII, said that Gábor Iványi was a model for others, and he called attention to the fact that Iványi and his church provide assistance to people, children, and elderly who have the least means.

Pikó asked everyone not just to stand up for Gábor Iványi, but for all of those who embody and represent the spirit of the pastor, and for Hungarian society to stand up for the weak and fallen.

As the district mayor was speaking, new evidence was removed from the building where Iványi runs his organization. Boxes and sacks holding confiscated computers and documents were taken out by tax authorities to loud boos from the crowd.

District VIII Mayor András Pikó pauses his speech as NAV tax agents remove evidence from the Oltalom Charity Association [Momentum Mozgalom / Facebook]

After Pikó, Katalin Lukácsi from Everybody’s Hungary Movement, Róbert Dudás and Anita Potocskáné Kőrösi from Jobbik, Gergely Arató from DK, Erzsébet Schmuck from LMP, and MSZP’s Zita Gurmai all spoke in solidarity with Gábor Iványi, and condemned the events taking place in front of them.

Momentum President Anna Donáth pointed out that seized evidence was being taken from the scene right as she was speaking. Supporters gathered there voiced their displeasure and called out, “We are with you, Gábor!” Donáth asked everyone to show their love and compassion for Gábor Iványi and all that his organizations do.

Gábor Iványi: we don’t know why this is happening

After these speeches, Gábor Iványi himself took the stage and opened his speech with the following:

Thank you so much for being here with me, with us, and you should know that if you find yourself in a similar situation, I will be there for you too!

Iványi reported on the events that had taken place that day, and asked the community not to harm NAV staff because they were not responsible for what was happening.

The Methodist pastor said that his brother had been taken hostage by the authorities, and for a long time it was not clear exactly what was happening or who was being prosecuted, and even the topic of suspected drug abuse had come up.

Gábor Iványi claimed that essentially all evidence pertaining to the operation of the educational and social institutions run by the Hungarian Evangelical Brotherhood (MET) and the Oltalom Charity Association had been seized. The pastor spent a long time reading the official documents on stage for a long time, then stated:

They list at length what was taken away, but I still don’t know why.

Iványi recalled that in recent days, people had been “encouraged” to report several of his co-workers and those around them. He said that what had happened was no coincidence, and that the authorities drag everyone down, especially during the election campaign, solely to secure and maintain their power.

Gábor Iványi also said it was the duty of Christians to say now, as before, that they want to live in a world where people are not led around, and where authorities do not abuse their power.

The Methodist pastor also expressed his hope that the state would immediately pay the 12 billion Ft. due to MET, as several local and international courts have ruled.

“The conscience of the Hungarian nation”

Speaking next at the event, Budapest Mayor Gergely Karácsony said that Gábor Iványi irritates the authorities because he reminds Viktor Orbán of his former self, and all that he has betrayed and trampled on. According to the mayor, we should not be bitter about what happened, but draw strength from it, because Gábor Iványi has become the conscience of the Hungarian nation.

As long as there are Gábor Iványi-types in Hungary, Hungarians are not a lost people, the mayor continued. This nation is not embodied by Viktor Orbán, but by Gábor Iványi, mercy, and solidarity, adding:

Let’s all be a little Gábor Iványi on April 3.

-urged the Mayor, referring to the date of the Hungarian parliamentary elections.

Gábor Iványi then asked the crowd to sing the Hungarian National Anthem, and asked the crowd not to collect money for him, since he will refuse to pay his fine:

If they put me in jail, I will take my pocket dominoes and sit in jail.

-said pastor and charity worker Gábor Iványi.

Tax raid was “obviously a political message”

Earlier in the day, Gábor Iványi said that the tax raid was “obviously a political message,” as the possibilitiy of him being nominated as the opposition’s candidate for head of state had come up several times.

Iványi’s religious organization, MET, was registered more than forty years ago, but its status as a church was revoked by the current government in 2012 and remains off the official list of churches in Hungary.

In the past ten years, MET has accumulated high debts to utility companies, and in February last year, NAV imposed fines totaling more than 246 million Ft. ($784,000) on certain institutions run by the organization.

For years, Iványi has consistently said that his organizations cannot pay their debts because the Hungarian state refuses to pay them the subsidies they are rightfully due.

[Telex][Cover photo: Budapest Mayor Gergely Karácsony, Gábor Iványi, and Momentum President Anna Donáth speak on Feb. 21, 2022 (Gergely Karácsony / Facebook)]

European Parliament adopts Cseh report, letting cities apply for EU funds directly

picture of Gergely Karácsony and Katalin Cseh

The European Parliament has voted in favor of the Cseh report, which will allow cities to apply for EU funding directly, circumventing state intervention, announced Momentum MEP Katalin Cseh and Budapest Mayor Gergly Karácsony (pictured) in a joint statement yesterday.

The newly-adopted report states what the [Hungarian] capital has been lobbying for years in Brussels, which is allowing cities to apply for EU funding directly, and receive a portion of coronavirus recovery funds directly. This means that cities that have been bled dry financially by Fidesz, including Budapest, will be able to access important resources.

-the duo write on social media.

Karácsony and Cseh saw the need for this because they believe ruling party Fidesz has an undue influence on directing EU money that comes to Hungary, such as Fidesz-run towns and cities receiving a disproportionate amount of funds. In addition, they want to ensure that any EU funds withheld due to the irresponsibility of the government are able to reach the final beneficiaries directly.

Katalin Cseh’s report to the Parliamentary Committee on Regional Policy also covers topics such as education, digitalization, and climate change, as well as gender equality and domestic violence.

Gergely Karácsony believes that the adoption of the Cseh report could be a huge help to cities, municipalities, and businesses who are trying to recover from Covid.

[Telex][Photo: Katalin Cseh / Facebook]

Election will hinge on 26 close districts, says Karácsony

picture of Gergely Karácsony

Gergely Karácsony thinks that the opposition coalition will sweep all of Budapest’s 18 electoral districts in the parliamentary elections on April 3, according to background discussions the Mayor held with reporters on Friday.

Karácsony expressed confidence that the opposition would win every constituency in the metropolitan Budapest region, and even believes that the swing districts around Vác and Szentendre are winnable.

Overall, the Mayor expects the election to be very close. Out of Hungary’s 106 total electoral districts, Karácsony estimates that both Fidesz-KDNP and the United for Hungary opposition are certain to get 40 seats each, but the remaining 26 seats are toss-ups.

The Mayor also said that during the campaign he will be appearing alongside opposition candidates mostly in the capital and in the surrounding region.

Gergely Karácsony feels there is a good chance that at least five candidates from his party, Dialogue, will be able to enter Parliament after the election, allowing them to form their own group in the National Assembly.

[ATV]

Investigating committee finds no evidence capital wanted to sell Budapest City Hall

picture of Budapest City Hall

The special committee investigating the City Hall affair has wrapped up its work, determining that Budapest city administrators did not make a decision to sell the City Hall building, nor was any evidence found that city tenders had been specifically tailored towards any one applicant.

The work of the capital’s inquiry committee set up to investigate the City Hall case is now over.

-wrote Momentum’s Tamás Soproni, the vice-chairman of the committee, in a Facebook post. The panel questioned more than 10 witnesses, including Mayor Gergely Karácsony, and reviewed some 5.5 GB of documents.

On this basis, the committee made five findings, the first of which was that the Budapest City Council made no decision to sell the City Hall building in October 2019. In fact, it determined that Mayor Karácsony had set guidelines for further developing the building at a meeting of the Mayor’s Cabinet on May 26, 2020.

The committee also found no evidence that any city tender had been restricted to such an extent that it had been tailored for a particular applicant, nor was there any evidence that a “commission system” existed for any sales done on behalf of the city.

Both of these charges were made in audio recordings that had been covertly recorded and played in videos that were sent to media companies by a masked person calling himself “Anonymous.”

The special committee also questioned an expert on whether “the way in which the audio recordings were made, edited together, and made public were consistent with Russian-type disinformation campaigns, and whether a conclusion could be drawn as to a connection between the release of the audio recordings and possible outside interference in the 2022 parliamentary elections.”

On this point, Soproni also wrote:

The committee did not have the authority to conduct in-depth investigations into this specific matter, but experts opinion holds that the 2022 elections are of paramount importance to Russia’s security policy aims, which raises the possibility, based on experiences in other countries, of intervention through the use of Russian interests.

News of the alleged plan to sell Budapest City Hall appeared after Index wrote a series of articles on the subject last November, citing various documents claiming that city leaders were planning to sell the building.

Mayor Karácsony has consistently denied that the capital had any intent to sell Budapest City Hall. Questioned by the investigating committee last Monday, Karácsony told them that a development strategy for the City Hall complex containing the advantages and disadvantages of various proposals was formulated in October 2020.

However, the last few lines of the document clearly stated that the city did not wish to sell the building, which it otherwise could not legally do, he said.

[Népszava, Telex]

Orbán takes jabs at political rivals as he officially opens the House of Hungarian Music

picture of Viktor Orbán

The House of Hungarian Music, built as part of the Liget Budapest project, was officially opened yesterday, on the Day of Hungarian Culture.

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán was also in attendance at the event, and in his speech he praised the beauty of the building before he began to talk about “how our political opponents behaved on the issue of renovating City Park.” It was no coincidence, said Orbán, that “the Mayor of Budapest happened to have something else to do today.”

Looking at this beautiful building, the crowded lines, and the many international accolades the building has received, “it is clearer than day that we were right,” he claimed. According to the Prime Minister, the left-wing defended what was devastated, inhabited, and unworthy, while it opposed what is beautiful, world-class, and uplifting.

“It’s tempting, but maybe not appropriate to deal with political revenge on the Day of Hungarian Culture,” he noted. “Let’s not forget it but just postpone it,” and instead “play our song in April,” said the head of government, in reference to parliamentary elections scheduled for April 3.

Following this, the Prime Minister outlined his vision of a struggling West. In his interpretation, this is not an East-West stuggle but rather a conflict within the West itself, which he plans to resolve by expanding Hungarian culture. Orbán urged his listeners to turn to the classical values ​​of high culture, as high culture can mediate, command respect, and demand attention “in this Babylonian turmoil.”

Karácsony: “this building was not created by culture, but by barbaric violence”

Budapest Mayor Gergely Karácsony also offered his thoughts on the House of Hungarian Music in a strongly-worded Facebook post:

On the Day of Culture, it is especially important to remind ourselves that this building was not created by culture, but by barbaric violence. Violence against the city’s most important public park. Violence against trees that were cut down and against the over 100-year-old sycamores which had their water supply destroyed by the building. Violence against the rule of law, as special laws were created to permit its construction, waving away previously-existing legal regulations. Violence against the will of the people, as a large proportion of public opinion was against its construction, and my referendum initiative urging its termination was illegally blocked. Literal brutal violence against citizens who protested the project, who were beaten up by criminal security guards. And violence against taxpayers, because as usual, the investment project went way over its originally-planned budget, costing more than 10 million Ft. per square meter.

Despite this, Mayor Karácsony wrote that now that the project is completed, it might as well be used, and as a music lover himself, he also expects to pay a visit to the House of Hungarian Music.

But let’s never forget that culture is more than music or architechture – culture is respect and attentiveness. And if Hungary did not have a violent and barbaric government but a cultured government, in this sense, then perhaps with this amount of money a much more beautiful House of Music could have been built in another location.

-wrote Mayor Karácsony.

[HVG, Magyar Hang]

National Election Office warns that counting opposition’s referendum signatures could take several weeks

picture of Gergely Karácsony

The National Election Office (NVI) will begin counting the signatures collected for the opposition’s proposed referendum after boxes of signature sheets were handed over to them by opposition leaders and activists on Friday, NVI said in a statement.

The two-question referendum on a branch campus of China’s Fudan University and extending unemployment benefits was initiated by Budapest Mayor Gergely Karácsony (pictured). After the NVI provided signature sheets in mid-December, opposition politicians and activists spent weeks collecting the necessary number of signatures.

NVI now writes that they have sixty days to count the 235,000 signatures provided to them, of which 200,000 must be valid, and promise to do so “within the deadline set by the referendum law.” They will need to increase staffing to do this, because they have to arrange the sheets into hundreds of batches, then scan them in and count the signatures one by one.

The agency also noted that in addition to having to verify the signatures for the two referendum questions, they are in the final stages of preparing for parliamentary elections on April 3, as well as the government’s own four-question referendum on the same day. But they added that previous referenda have shown that the counting effort will take weeks.

At the opposition’s press conference held in Kossuth Square yesterday, Dialogue MP Tímea Szabó said that the National Election Office would be able to count the signatures in a single night if it wanted to, even though it has up to 60 days under the law.

As Gergely Karácsony said:

There is certainly no legal obstacle to holding a referendum on these issues on April 3rd. If Fidesz prevents this through administrative means, it will be another very strong message to the Hungarian people.

The idea for the referendum was part of Gergely Karácsony’s campaign when he was running to be the opposition’s candidate for prime minister. Péter Márki-Zay, the eventual winner of the primary election, took up the cause, after two of the mayor’s original five questions had been approved by the National Election Commission:

  • Do you agree that the maximum period for the payment of unemployment benefits should be 270 days?
  • Do you agree that the National Assembly should repeal Act LXXXI of 2021 on the Fudan Hungary University Foundation regarding the transfer of assets to the Fudan Hungary University Foundation?

Collecting signatures for the initiative began in mid-December, with the intent of holding a referendum on April 3, the day of the parliamentary election. The opposition finally collected the required number of signatures, but due to possible appeals and other conceivable administrative obstacles, the legal process is expected to drag on for so long that getting the referendum on the ballot for April 3 may not be possible.

On this day, the government will hold its own referendum on “child protection” issues at the same time as parliamentary elections are held. Under current law, however, the government did not have to collect signatures as the opposition did for its initiative.

[Telex][Photo: Gergely Karácsony / Facebook]

Karácsony and supporters deliver referendum signatures to National Election Office

picture of people with boxes

Hungary’s political opposition held a joint press conference yesterday morning announcing the delivery of 470,000 signatures from 235,000 people to the National Election Office, expressing confidence that the two-question referendum could be held together with the parliamentary elections on April 3.

Budapest Mayor Gergely Karácsony began the press conference denoting the end of the referendum’s signature drive by saying that the activists had done heroic work over the past few weeks through collecting signatures at the worst possible time. The mayor said that the boxes full of signatures behind him would now be taken to the election office so that politics could be given back to the people.

Politics has become more and more synonymous with corruption, pragmatism, and misleading people, while decisions are increasingly made for the sake of a narrow elite, but these [referenda] questions serve anew the purpose of making political decisions in the public interest.

-said the Mayor.

Gergely Karácsony closed by saying that the referendum would take them from the primary election to the parliamentary election, which again will be a referendum on ending the politics of recent years, “which has held the state hostage and represented private interests instead of the public interest.”

Momentum’s Anna Orosz spoke about committed supporters in the opposition who had tried to warn the six-party coalition not to start collecting signatures before the Christmas holiday period. The Deputy Mayor of Újbuda felt that there was no circumstance that could not be overcome in their effort to install a new government in Hungary.

Budapest Deputy Mayor Erzsébet Gy. Németh asked supporters to show the same level of dedication during the election campaign to help them replace the government. If they are capable of this, on April 3 they will be able to show that “a new world is coming.”

Opposition activists deliver signature sheets to National Election Office, January 21, 2022 [Anna Orosz / Facebook]

MSZP’s Imre Komjáthi claimed that people’s livelihoods were threatened in Hungary, and that millions of people nervously walk into stores because of runaway inflation. “Millions of people are now getting less on the table because the government isn’t acting,” he stated.

Tímea Szabó said that the government tried everything it could to block the opposition’s referendum initiative, but the flood of signatures showed that people had already said no to Fudan University and yes to the Student City project. The Co-Chair of Dialogue wore a T-shirt with the Chinese flag overlaid with the Fidesz logo, for which she had previously received a 10 million Ft. (US $31,600) fine while wearing in the National Assembly.

Tímea Szabó also stated that:

If János Áder does not call the referendum for April 3, it will go against the will of the people.

The two proposed questions for the referendum are:

  • Do you agree that the maximum period for the payment of unemployment benefits should be 270 days?
  • Do you agree that the National Assembly should repeal Act LXXXI of 2021 on the Fudan Hungary University Foundation regarding the transfer of assets to the Fudan Hungary University Foundation?

LMP Co-Chair Máté Kanász-Nagy believes that the government’s recent corruption cases have highlighted the importance of the referendum. As he put it, “the Fidesz privileged are stealing with abandon,” while on the other side people are missing out on their unemployment benefits.

Jobbik’s György Szilágyi said it was a touching and uplifting feeling to see that after the thrill of the primary election, masses of people again stood next to the opposition, showing the power to sweep away “Viktor Orbán and his gang.”

Press Chief Judit Péterfi read a message by the opposition’s nominee for prime minister, Péter Márki-Zay, who could not be present at the event following a positive coronavirus test. Márki-Zay wrote that the opposition now has 235,000 brave men and woman who have given their names and details to their effort, but there are even more out there.

Péter Márki-Zay felt that they had made huge strides since the primary elections. He made a promise and they achieved it, and they now have a reason to celebrate. But he also looked ahead by saying:

The real referendum on April 3 will be about a single question: Fidesz or not Fidesz.

Forming a human chain, opposition supporters then passed the boxes containing the signature sheets to one another from Kossuth Square to the National Election Office.

[Index][Photos: Anna Orosz / Facebook]

United opposition gets 470,000 signatures for Fudan referendum, ends petition drive

picture of Péter Márki-Zay and Gergely Karácsony

The united opposition coalition has managed to get a total of 470,000 signatures in support of the two questions for its proposed referendum on Fudan University and extending unemployment benefits, Péter Márki-Zay, the opposition’s candidate for prime minister (pictured, left), announced in a joint Facebook video with Budapest Mayor Gergely Karácsony (pictured, right).

In other words, Hungary’s opposition parties succeeded in getting 235,000 signatures for each issue. While only 200,000 authentic signatures are needed to hold a national referendum on a given issue, the extra signatures add a bit of breathing room in case any person information provided to organizers turns out to be invalid, which past experience has shown to be the case about 10% of the time.

The sheets were expected to be handed over on Friday, but as Péter Márki-Zay is in quarantine following a positive Covid test, he will not be there. The opposition leader has asked Gergely Karácsony to deliver the referendum petitions, noting that the success of the initiative was due in large part to the Budapest mayor.

Karácsony originally submitted five questions for a national referendum, although in the end only two of these were approved:

Do you agree that the maximum period for the payment of unemployment benefits should be 270 days?

Do you agree that the National Assembly should repeal Act LXXXI of 2021 on the Fudan Hungary University Foundation regarding the transfer of assets to the Fudan Hungary University Foundation?

Activists from the six united opposition parties, namely DK, Jobbik, MSZP, Dialogue, Momentum, and LMP, as well as the Márki-Zay’s Everyone Hungary Movement and the Hungarian Two-Tailed Dog Party, also took part in the signature drive.

The united opposition announced its plans for a referendum at the same time as the government’s referendum on so-called “child protection” issues, but the latter did not require signatures. In the end, four of the government’s questions were approved, and Parliament agreed to hold this referendum at the same time as parliamentary elections on April 3.

But it was decided that the referendum proposed by Gergely Karácsony would require collecting a certain number of signatures, which began in mid-December. The opposition coalition hoped that the two-question referendum campaign would reignite voter enthusiasm that had waned following the excitement of the primary elections in the fall.

Their goal was to hold the referendum on April 3, at the same time as the parliamentary election and the government’s own referendum. This is still possible in principle, depending on how much time it takes to verify signatures on the two petitions and address any legal appeals against them.

But as previously reported, authorities can also draw out the time by issuing rulings only at the end of a given deadline, making it less likely that the opposition’s referendum can be held on election day this year.

[Népszava][Photo: Péter Márki-Zay / Facebook]

Karácsony suggests that Budapest may nix the World Athletics Championships after all

picture of Gergely Karácsony

At the end of November, Budapest Mayor Gergely Karácsony (pictured) told news channel ATV that support for the 2023 World Athletics Championships in Budapest was contingent on two conditions: not transferring funds to the Fudan University Foundation, and ensuring funding for the development of the Healthy Budapest Program. The mayor determined that the conditions had been met, and so the city dropped its resistance to holding the event.

However, the Ministry of Finance’s announcement on December 22 of 755 billion Ft. (US $2.30 billion) in spending cuts in 2022 meant a 13.2 billion Ft. ($40.4 million) reduction in funding available for the Healthy Budapest Program.

As Gergely Karácsony explained to RTL Híradó:

If there are twenty billion forints available to destroy Lake Fertő, then there should also be ten billion for improving health care in Budapest. The capital will support holding the World Athletics Championships on the condition that the Healthy Budapest Program can continue. When the government withdraws these resources with a stroke of a pen, it basically pulls the rug out of hosting the World Athletics Championships.

RTL also contacted the Ministry of Human Resources and was told that: “The Healthy Budapest Program investments are only being rescheduled, which does not mean that they will not be realized.”

The mayor’s comments on Lake Fertő referred to an enormous public procurement project that was canceled on December 10 but recently offered again. According to the tender, the second phase of development will include two motels, a visitor center with restaurant, an area with 682sqm of usable space for water sports, and two large pools together with roads and bridges.

On Monday, Karácsony posted on Facebook that the epidemic proved that more should be spent on health care, especially in Hungary, where the mortality rate was very high compared to other countries. And yet, he reminded his readers that there was still plenty of money for prestige investment projects like the one at Fertő.

“It’s up to us to throw them out and finally choose a government that is about people first,” said Karácsony at the end of his post.

[Magyar Hang, Index]

Gov’t cutting all funds for Healthy Budapest program, Karácsony says it will result in needless deaths

picture of Gergely Karácsony

The government has announced plans to cut 755 billion Ft. (US $2.30 billion) in spending, and a resolution published in the Official Gazette shows where some of the money is going to come from. There are still many question marks about the details, but what appears certain is that all funding for next year’s Healthy Budapest program will be cut.

“Hungary has received a huge austerity package for Christmas from the Orbán government,” responded Budapest Mayor Gergely Karácsony (pictured) on Facebook to the news.

Referring to the Healthy Budapest program cuts, Karácsony wrote:

This program, which we had to fight with the government to get after the municipal elections [in 2019], saves lives. Because this program reduces and eliminates waiting lists, it means the early detection of cancer diagnoses, and we know that timely screenings can be a life-saver for many.

A little over three weeks ago, the mayor announced that the capital would not veto holding the 2023 World Athletics Championships in Budapest after aid for health care from the national government arrived in the city’s coffers, albeit late.

The question now is whether the Budapest City Council will revisit the possibility of vetoing the major event now that funding for the program will not be forthcoming next year.

[Telex]

Greenpeace says Karácsony not living up to his clean air promises, but gov’t not much better

picture of Gergely Karácsony and Greenpeace

Despite a mutual agreement back in July, Greenpeace Hungary says that Budapest Mayor Gergely Karácsony has not yet set a deadline for removing obsolete diesel vehicles from the roads. The environmental organization has been sharply critical of the mayor for failing to deliver on his promises.

“Despite its promises, the leadership of the capital still has not submitted a plan for restricting old, polluting vehicles,” Greenpeace Hungary said on its Facebook page.

Instead of setting an immediate deadline for restricting obsolete diesel-consuming vehicles that have long been banned from Western European cities, Gergely Karácsony promises for now only to hold a public consultation on the subject, which will do precious little for reducing air pollution in Budapest.

-writes the environmental organization, which recalls that it handed over its Clean Air! petition to the mayor in July, in which nearly 45,000 people demanded that the city administration gradually start banning polluting vehicles from Budapest and promote the spread and development of sustainable transport in the capital.

When the petition was handed over, the mayor stated that setting a target date for banning polluting vehicles from certain parts of Budapest would be put before the City Council this year.

We still expect capital leadership to publish its timetable for banning polluting vehicles as soon as possible, and to set out when and what steps it intends to take to develop and spread sustainable mobility in Budapest.

-wrote Greenpeace Hungary, adding there is a huge need for changes in this area, despite air quality improving slightly due to coronavirus-induced lockdowns last year.

But the environmental NGO also stated that it was not exactly satisified with Hungary’s performance at the national level either, as it believes that the government still has to live up to the promise it made in 2020 to limit the importation of polluting vehicles.

The government does not excel in supporting the development of urban public transport either. It has taken money away from municipalities to such an extent that it is practically impossible to run public transportation at a high standard. In the interests of the health of the Hungarian people, we expect concrete and meaningful action from Hungary’s legislators at both the city and government levels on cleaning up the air.

-stated the organization.

[Index][Photo: Greenpeace Magyarország / Facebook]

Opposition begins collecting signatures for Fudan referendum

picture of people with petition papers

“Primaries, a referendum, then a nice little change of government,” began Ágnes Kunhalmi in her briefing on the start of the united opposition’s signature collection effort on Wednesday. The opposition needs to get 200,000 signatures together to hold a national referendum on the following questions, which were proposed by Budapest Mayor Gergely Karácsony in the summer:

Do you agree that the maximum period for the payment of unemployment benefits should be 270 days?

Do you agree that the National Assembly should repeal Act LXXXI of 2021 on the Fudan Hungary University Foundation regarding the transfer of assets to the Fudan Hungary University Foundation?

Kunhalmi, co-chair of the Hungarian Socialist Party, said that the referendum is just the starting point for the change of government, and that not only will opposition coalition parties help with collecting signatures, but also union members, civilians, and the Two-Tailed Dog Party.

On Fudan University, Momentum politician Miklós Hajnal said that the Fudan referendum question is about the future of Hungary, about whether we want to sell the future of our children and grandchildren to one of the institutions of the Chinese Communist Party.

Antal Csárdi from LMP said that building Student City, the proposed location for the Chinese university campus, is important for both Budapest and the country, and that the project provides an opportunity to alleviate the housing problems in the capital.

Dániel Z. Kárpát from Jobbik called Hungary’s leadership the cruelest government in Europe today, adding that they have helped oligarchs during the pandemic-induced emergency, but given up on those who lost their jobs or have had their income reduced.

László Varju from the Democratic Coalition talked about the fact that the current length of unemployment benefits puts people in a vulnerable situation, and many people just prefer to leave the country instead.

Bence Tordai also mentioned the other referendum launched by the government on “child protection” issues, which is expected to appear on next year’s ballot. Referring to the content of the government’s referendum, the Dialogue politician said that there’s no need to protect Hungary from “gender reassignment kindergartens,” but from the deep crisis into which the Orbán government has plunged the country.

[Index][Photo: Gergely Karácsony / Facebook]

Karácsony to Matolcsy: Let’s break up MNB, not Budapest

picture of Gergely Karácsony

Budapest Mayor Gergely Karácsony (pictured) is apparently not a fan of a recent proposal by György Matolcsy, the Governor of the Hungarian National Bank (MNB), on how he envisions the future of the nation’s capital.

On Monday, Matolcsy stated in Magyar Nemzet that the capital could develop properly if the city’s current districts broke off and Budapest was “shaped into a healthy size” of about 600,000 inhabitants. The MNB Governor would preserve the “Budapest city core,” essentially maintaining all the leading institutions of the state, government, business, banking system, higher education, and culture, but spinning off the capital’s outer districts into their own independent cities.

Following György “Chopper” Matolcsy’s proposal to split up Budapest, I have an idea. Let’s break up the Hungarian National Bank. One half will finally deal with the inflation that has been hitting decade-long highs. The other, where hundreds of billions of forints of public money have “lost their character” as public money in recent years, should be placed under the supervision of the Prosecutor General’s Office.

-Gergely Karácsony reacted on Facebook to György Matolcsy’s suggestion.

[Telex]

Karácsony: “No one is safe in this country” as police are now a Fidesz propaganda tool

picture of Gergely Karácsony

Two units of the National Bureau of Investigation appeared at City Hall on Monday morning to conduct a search in the offices of the Budapest Head Notary and Deputy Mayor Kiss Ambrus in connection with the City Hall affair, reports Magyar Hang. A search was also conducted at the apartment of the Budapest Property Manager.

Mayor Gergely Karácsony (pictured) reacted to the events with a strong post on Facebook:

The police have also become a Fidesz propaganda tool, and the investigative authorities have been involved in political smear campaigns – they have crossed this red line as well. They will be held responsible for it. I have just called the Minister of the Interior, Sándor Pintér, and demanded an explanation from him. I most strongly rejected this and requested to know the procedure in which the police are cooperating in a smear campaign that serves the interests of Fidesz. Of course, I should have called Antal Rogán…

The mayor continued by remarking on the leaked speech by House Speaker László Kövér to senior intelligence officials last year:

What László Kövér gave the green light for senior security officials to do in his scandalous speech to them has occurred. The opposition is now the target, and after months of being secretly surveilled, followed, and wiretapped, they have now taken care of the police too.

Mayor Karácsony also strongly refuted the purported basis for the searches, the accusation by the pro-government press that the Budapest City Council had been secretly negotiating the sale of Budapest City Hall:

What kind of a procedure is this when a search is carried out at the Head Notary’s office on the basis of an order in which it is stated in black and white: the Budapest City Council has never given an order to anyone to sell the City Hall. So they’re looking for what we didn’t give an authorization for?

Gergely Karácsony closes his post ominously, stating that:

From today, no one is safe in this country. If people talk about someone they don’t even know and then it’s intercepted, it’s not the slanderers who the police go after, but the victim. As of today, we are forced to view the investigating authorities as the servants of Fidesz’s campaign. This cannot remain without consequences…

[Magyar Hang]