Candidates debate in downtown Budapest electoral district without Fidesz

February 13, 2018

Candidates debated in downtown Budapest without Fidesz
Left to right: Pál Losonczy (Jobbik), Márta V. Naszályi (MSZP-Dialogue), Antal Csárdi (LMP), Péter Juhász (Együtt) and András Fekete-Győr (Momentum) | Source: Közös Ország Mozgalom

Opposition candidates for Budapest’s first electoral district covering much of downtown agree on the majority of policy issues but their courses of action for a change of government differ, reports index.hu.

Pál Losonczy of Jobbik, Márta V. Naszályi of the Hungarian Socialist Party-Dialogue (MSZP-Dialogue), Antal Csárdi of Politics Can Be Different (LMP), Péter Juhász of Együtt (Together) and András Fekete-Győr of the Momentum Movement debated each other Monday evening at an event organized by the Country For All Movement. The Hungarian Two-tailed Dog Party (MKKP) candidate declined to participate, as did the Fidesz-Christian Democratic People’s Party candidate István Hollik, whose sole argument for not doing so was “Soros”.

Throughout the debate moderated by Country For All Movement founding activist Márton Gulyás, the candidates presented their views in five sections. All agreed that in case they won the district, they would support the initiative of The City is For All (A Város Mindenkié) homeless advocacy group that would prohibit eviction of families without providing alternative accommodation. Candidates also agreed that the practice of lending council properties to party cronies at far below market price must be abolished, stressing that council estates should be allotted to those threatened with homelessness. All candidates welcomed the idea of taxing absentee landlords. In addition, candidates stressed the importance of whitening the real-estate market and creating enforceable legislation.

The candidates generally agreed that conditions must be created in downtown Budapest advantageous for tourists and natives alike, citing increasing public safety and the number of public toilets as key measures. Although candidates acknowledged that renovating the historic Buda Castle District is necessary, they unanimously rejected the government’s plan to move government offices and ministries there to create a so-called governmental district. Candidates also unanimously agreed on the necessity of introducing a traffic congestion tax in downtown.

Jobbik candidate Losonczy caused a few seconds of uncomfortable silence when reacting to an audience member who said she feared for her child because of the homeless and drug users of the neighborhood, by saying that in Milan as soon as a homeless person appears downtown, they are put in a van and taken to a homeless settlement.

It was MSZP-PM candidate Naszályi who broke the somewhat friendly atmosphere of the debate when she noted that policy is not the most important question right now, but whether there will be a change of government. Candidates were less consistent about this. Highlighting the difficulties of a theoretical wide-scale opposition alliance, LMP candidate Csárdi noted how dysfunctional a government would be in which the Ministry of Interior was occupied by the Democratic Coalition (DK) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs by Jobbik.

Együtt chairman Juhász recalled how his party had already unilaterally withdrawn its candidates in certain electoral districts in favor of stronger candidates, and stated that he expects other parties to do the same. Juhász said that if it turns out there is a stronger candidate in the district than himself, he will step back in favor of that candidate. “It would be a historical sin if the opposition didn’t cooperate in the electoral districts,” he said.

Momentum’s Fekete-Győr said he could not look into the eyes of Momentum candidates if they were withdrawn in favor of an MSZP or DK candidate. Later he confirmed that his party will get back to the matter of coordination in March. The Momentum chairman listed three conditions under which they would be willing to give up individual candidates. Namely, the candidate left standing must have a good chance of beating the Fidesz candidate and be an “authentic, normal citizen.” Furthermore, other parties should withdraw their candidates in that specific electoral district, not just Momentum. Csárdi said an agreement is only reasonable if it does not bring back the pre-2010 politics. Losonczy stated on numerous occasions that Jobbik is the strongest opposition party and would run candidates in all 106 electoral districts. However, later on Losonczy said he would only step back if instructed to do so by his party’s presidium.

According to index.hu, Gulyás said that most questions from the audience were about cooperation between the opposition parties, indicating that citizens interested in politics are concerned more with ousting the current government and less with the characteristics of a post-Fidesz country.

The full debate can be watched here: