The 2018 campaign season kicked off yesterday evening with a debate among opposition party candidates for parliament in Budapest’s 6th electoral district. Conspicuously absent was the Fidesz candidate, the Two-tailed Dog Party’s candidate less so.
The debate was organized by the Country for All Movement (KOM) whose founder, Márton Gulyás, served as moderator.
In his opening comments, Gulyás explained that the Hungarian Two-tailed Dog Party candidate was invited but had declined to attend. “As for why not, please inquire at the Dog party.” Also invited but declining to attend was the Fidesz-KDNP alliance candidate, Budapest District VIII mayor Máté Kocsis.
We need to get rid of the current government
Although programatic differences were obvious, all candidates agreed on the need to get rid of the current government.
Commenting on Kocsis’ absence, Jobbik candidate Dóra Dúró said his attendance would have been a a sign of respect for the district’s voters. She said her goal was for Hungary to be led “with Hungarian heart, common sense and a good heart.”
LMP candidate Tamás Jakabfy said he would like to promote the nation’s interests. The Budapest District 8 assemblyman said that if those who have turned the country into a land of corruption with the use of offshore companies do not end up in prison, at least they should be forced out of politics.
Momentum Movement candidate Dr. Katalin Cseh said her goal is for Hungary to be a worthwhile place to live where people go to hospitals to be cured, not to die, adding that a total change in the country’s politics was needed, not merely a change of government.
Együtt candidate Krisztina Baranyi said that “the most important thing is for Viktor Orbán and his gang to be swept out of the country.” The Budapest District 9 assemblyman called on voters to “be smarter than the parties” and to vote for one opposition candidate in any given electoral district.
Democratic Coalition candidate Attila Ara-Kovács, who was born in neighboring Romania, said Hungary’s political system today resembles that of the dictatorship of Romanian communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu. For this reason “one must not compromise with the Viktor Orbán government.”
At that point, Hungarian Roma Party (MCP) candidate Ilona Nótár, who was sitting in the audience, asked to be allowed to participate in the debate. After putting the matter to a vote, Gulyás invited Nótár to take Kocsis’ place on the stage.
Following this, the Movement for a Modern Hungary (Moma) candidate Gábor Hompot also requested that he be allowed to participate, but this was voted down by the audience.
A discussion of the problems characteristic of electoral district 6, which encompasses most of Budapest districts 8 and 9, followed.
Nótár gave an emotional speech calling for an end to segregation in education. “Only integrated and hand in hand is it possible to advance, and we must put an end to racial discrimination,” she said.
Katalin Cseh agreed, stating that “a change in perspective was needed” especially in light of the fact that half of Hungarians hate the people of Pírez, a fictional people made up by a pollster to illustrate the extent to which Hungarians are xenophobic. Cseh agreed that integration was needed in education, to which Jakabfy added that if LMP comes to power it will restore the ministry of education relegated by Fidesz to a secretariat, and will spend one-fifth of the national budget on education.
But who is to join forces with whom?
The question of solidarity among opposition parties elicited varying responses.
Dúró pointed out that DK and MSZP were not allies, but rather had merely agreed not to run candidates against each other. She called for a European wage union, saying it was wrong for a Hungarian doctor to only earn one-fifth the salary of a German doctor.
Nótár recounted how, when she asked an eight-year-old boy about his dreams, he replied that he had none because he was always hungry. “We have to provide poor children with the opportunity to raise themselves up from nothing,” said the Hungarian Roma Party candidate.
When the Együtt candidate criticized Jobbik for advocating compulsory boarding school for disadvantaged children, Dúró replied that her party had not recommended this as the only solution, but rather one possible solution, and it had not done so “on ethnic or national grounds.” Moreover, pointed out the Jobbik candidate, DK founder and chairman Ferenc Gyurcsány had been the first to propose boarding schools for disadvantaged children.
Pointing out that denominational schools receive three times as much public funding per student as state schools, the DK candidate pledged to restore school autonomy in the event of a change of government.
The Momentum candidate emphasized that Hungary was slowly regressing and falling behind. Those who can will leave, and those who cannot will live in poverty. Cseh said it will not be DK chairman Ferenc Gyurcsány, MSZP-PM joint candidate for prime minister Gergely Karácsony, or LMP co-chair Bernadette Széll who stop Viktor Orbán and Máté Kocsis, but rather the undecided 30 percent.
“You should vote for the strongest opposition candidate,” said Dúró, meaning herself as the candidate of the largest opposition party. Whereas the Jobbik candidate called for the creation of an anti-corruption prosecutorial office, the DK candidate said a European prosecutorial office was needed.
The Együtt candidate said that after a change in government, assets obtained in a “illegitimate manner” could be recovered. “We must get back everything that they stole from us,” said Baranyi.
On the subject of Paks II, Cseh accused Viktor Orbán of high treason for delivering Hungary’s energy security into the hands of Russia Federation President Vladimir Putin.
Nótár said her party would introduce the teaching of Roma culture as a way of combatting fear of gypsies and prosecute hate crimes to the fullest extent of the law.
Dúró said her party would place large emphasis on the teaching of English as well as on strengthening “information, digital competencies.” She added that Jobbik supported decreasing the income gap between women and men, saying that “a woman should not earn less than a man for the same work.” She also called for a normal, proportional electoral system in the interest of restoring democracy. It was necessary for the country to move beyond divisions between the political right and left. She was certain Jobbik would run candidates in all 106 electoral districts. “We are the only ones who can defeat Fidesz.”
Tough questions from the audience
All candidates said they supported the student demonstration of January 19th.
When asked by Baranyi why Jobbik had refused to endorse the educational minimal program formulated by the Tanítanék (I Would Teach movement), the Jobbik candidate failed to answer.
From the audience, the Moma candidate asked which candidates actually lived in the electoral district. Ara-Kovács answered that he had lived there in the 1980s. Baranyi answered that she had lived there until the spring of 2009, but that she continued to serve as a district assemblyman. Katalin Cseh and Tamás Jakabfy answered that they resided within the electoral district. Dóra Dúró acknowledged never having resided in that part of Budapest, going on to say that “representing people is primarily a question of attitude.” Nótár said her work tied her to Budapest District 8.
In response to further questions from the audience, Cseh said her party wanted to increase the health-care budget by HUF 300 billion. Dúró observed that today every sixth Hungarian was born abroad. “We will probably lose them.”
Baranyi derided Jobbik’s wage union proposal, saying that small companies would have to get rid of some of their employees.