Scoring its biggest victory in a decade, Hungarian opposition parties conquered the capital Budapest in municipal elections held on Sunday as their candidate, 44-year-old Gergely Karácsony ousted incumbent István Tarlós, backed by the ruling Fidesz party. In addition to snatching the mayoral post from Fidesz, opposition forces - which supported a joint candidate in a large number of voting districts nationwide - also won 18 of the 23 district mayor positions in the capital. Opposition candidates were elected mayors in a number of large cities while Fidesz remained the strongest party in rural areas.
At a turnout of 51.47%, Gergely Karácsony received 50.86% of the votes in Budapest while István Tarlós got 44.1%, according to data on the National Election Office website. “This victory is about making Budapest green and free," Gergely Karácsony said last night, adding that the new leadership will steer Budapest from the 20th to the 21st century and back to its historically rightful place, Europe.
In the 33-seat Budapest city assembly, the parties supporting Gergely Karácsony will have 18 seats with 13 seats for Fidesz and two for independents.
Opposition parties also narrowed the gap with Fidesz outside Budapest by winning in ten of Hungary’s 23 big cities.
Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said at a Fidesz gathering Sunday night that “today, the citizens of Budapest have decided that the time has come for something different. We accept this decision and in the interests of the country and the citizens of Budapest, we are ready to cooperate.”
Analysts are in agreement that the government will need to pay more attention to Budapest. "The voting base remains stable, Fidesz has mainly lost in big cities, so I believe the government's economic policy will not change substantially," online news portal portfolio.hu quoted Péter Virovácz, chief economist at ING Bank Hungary as saying. Gábor Regős, Head of Macroeconomics at Századvég Economic Research is not expecting a significant change in economic policy either, “but if there is, it will be due to a change in the global economic environment and fears related to the spillover of German recession.” The analyst added that “Budapest needs more resources, just think of public transport and infrastructure.”
Naz Masraff, an analyst at think tank Teneo Intelligence, told Reuters news agency that yesterday's election results could solidify cooperation between opposition parties ahead of the 2022 general election. “But forming a wide opposition project will still prove to be very difficult ahead of parliamentary elections given the need to align diverging priorities.”