Budapest mayoral candidate Ferenc Falus said his decision to stand was motivated by his desire for less pollution and better public services “which are the keys to a more liveable city”. He said he only learnt he would be the Unity (Összefogás) candidate for the mayor of Budapest the same day that the left-wing alliance of the Socialists (MSZP), Together-Dialogue for Hungary (E-PM) and the Democratic Coalition (DK) made the decision. The former Chief Medical Officer said he would like to participate in a candidate debate, if given the chance.
Falus says he considers himself the right person for the mayoral position because he has experience in running large organizations, leading large teams, and is able to find a common voice with everyone. “One of the main virtues necessary for somebody to be a good mayor is the willingness to negotiate,” Falus said, adding that “(official Fidesz candidate) István Tarlós does not have this virtue” and that “he could not represent the interests of Budapest.”
He continued that “Budapest has been bowed in the face of the government’s decisions, which are dictated from above. As a consequence, the city has lost a lot of money in the past. Budapest produces 60 percent of the country’s budget alone, so in a mayoral position you need to determine the level of support in proportion to this.”
Falus set out his main goal the creation of a more livable city, adding that “harmful environmental factors should be eradicated, while a well-functioning public service system is a must”. He said “another mistake of Tarlós has been the fact that a city institution – such as a hospital – which is no longer the property of Budapest, does not cease to be the responsibility of the capital with respect to its operation and functioning. Budapest’s fate is not a political issue,” Falus said.
Although not a member of any political party, Falus was a co-founder of the Homeland and Progress Foundation (Haza és Haladás) established by former prime minister Gordon Bajnai and is on Together 2014’s party list of candidates for city council candidate. In case of a defeat as a mayoral candidate, Falus said he can work as a representative for Budapest too, but added that he is confident of his ability and believes he will win, despite the odds. “Now it is possible to smash the power of Fidesz.” Falus also revealed that he had received separate invitations from each of the left-wing parties. “I was only given 12 hours to think about it, but that was enough for me to accept,” he added.
Falus attended the Medical University in Moscow and graduated in Budapest in 1975. He then worked as a doctor and in 2001 was appointed director of Budapest’s Gyula Nyírő Hospital where he opened Hungary’s first gambling treatment clinic. In 2007 he was touted as a possible health minister but was passed over in the end.
Later that year Falus became the national chief medical officer, and reached the public consciousness during the H1N1 epidemic in 2009. He promoted the vaccines against H1N1 but without providing information on their origin, saying: “I have never asked who is behind the production of the coffee I drink. The only thing that matters is the quality of the coffee.” Nevertheless, many doctors refused to vaccinate patients after citing a lack of information.
He was removed from his position after the Fidesz election landslide in 2010, with the new government citing a “lack of confidence and problems with regards to the functioning of the National Public Health Service (ÁNTSZ)”. He has since been steadily more involved in politics, lending his voice on issues of public health care. Most notably he criticized the creation of regional health centers and government health care funding cuts. In 2012 he was one of the founding members of Gordon Bajnai’s foundation Haza és Haladás Egyesület (Homeland and Progress foundation), and represented Unity in several health care debates during the national election campaign earlier in the year.
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