The Budapest city assembly voted Wednesday to officially withdraw the city’s application to host the 2024 Olympic games, with 22 members of the Fidesz-majority assembly voting for withdrawal and 6 voting against. Among the votes against were opposition politicians Gergely Karácsony (PM) and Erzsébet Németh (DK), who echoed calls from other opposition figures that the city should organize a referendum on the issue.
The assembly’s decision came after more than 266,000 signatures were submitted to the Budapest Elections Office on February 17, the result of a campaign to force a referendum on Budapest’s Olympic application. The submission nearly doubled the required amount of signatures to initiate the referendum, but the Fidesz government showed no signs of allowing such a vote to take place, instead laying blame on opposition parties for “betraying the Olympic cause.”
Assemblymen Csaba Horváth (MSZP) and Antal Csárdi (LMP) recommended at the Wednesday session that the withdrawal be removed from the assembly’s agenda until at least next Wednesday, when the results of the signature authentication process are expected to be announced. The politicians argued that the elections office must be given a chance to count the signatures and call a referendum before the assembly reaches a decision, a proposal voted down by the Fidesz majority.
The activist group responsible for initiating the campaign for a referendum, Momentum Movement, released a statement Wednesday revealing that they had raised some HUF 18 million (USD 61,500) from 1,500 donors for the campaign, of which they spent around HUF 14 million (USD 48,000). More than HUF 6 million of that was spent on a telephone campaign in 16 districts of Budapest, plus an additional HUF 4 million on Facebook ads, flags, flyers, buttons, and public opinion polls. The unspent HUF 4 million will go toward the Momentum Movement traveling the country as they work to build a constituency going into the 2018 national election, in which the group plans to run as an opposition party.