The Mayor of Budapest, Gergely Karácsony, is set to run for Prime Minister of Hungary for the united opposition heading into the next national elections in April or May 2022. Karácsony was the sole candidate who defeated the Right Alliance for the position of Mayor of Budapest in the 2019 local elections.
A Coalition of Democracy is uniting
Having been called as “Hungary’s de facto dictator,” Viktor Orbán and his party, Fidesz, have been criticized for alleged increasingly authoritarian tendencies like taking control of most media, reducing juridical independence, and manipulating the electoral system. Critiques worry that Hungary is approaching autocracy.
Fidesz (Fiatal Demokraták Szövetsége) led by Viktor Orbán mostly, was founded in 1988. The name of the party is the “Alliance of Young Democrats” which suggests a group of freedom supporters who embrace democracy. They were left-liberals in its early stage in 1990s, opposing the Hungarian ‘Socialist Worker’s Party’ as underground political activists.
However, after Orbán was appointed as the leader of Fidesz, the party gradually transformed from liberal to centre-right conservative (Sabrina P. Ramet ed. Central and Southeast European Politics Since 1989, Cambridge University Press (London, 2010), p. 79). Orbán started his first term from 1998 to 2002 and turned to the opposition in the next eight years. In 2010, Orbán was in office and hold the position to the present. In the latest 2018 elections, Fidesz was accused of election fraud by NGOs and human rights groups.
As the chairman of the Dialogue for Hungary (Párbeszéd Magyarországért), a Hungarian Green political party, Karácsony was seen as a victory for the opposition towards Orbán. In the 2021 opposition primary elections, a coalition of six parties, from the far-right ‘Jobbik’ to the radical left, put aside their ideologies and agreed to compete to the upcoming national election.
Change Hungary and Run for PM, Karácsony says
On 15 May 2021, Gergely Karácsony announced his candidacy for Prime Minister of Hungary on Twitter, promising a new beginning that “works for the 99% and not for the privileged 1%”. He launched the 99% Movement calling on the elimination of political elite governing and democracy for 99% majority.
Karácsony started his political career in 2002 when he was a political advisor at the Prime Minister’s Office. Before the membership of the Dialogue for Hungary, he served as Member of Parliament for the Green-liberal party Politics Can Be Different (Lehet Más a Politika) until 2013. Since the Politics Can Be Different rejected proposals for new strategy at the party congress, Karácsony left the party alongside other members and they formed a new organization ‘Dialogue for Hungary‘.
As Budapest mayor, Karácsony has been working for Hungarians in many aspects including infrastructural constructions, democratic engagement, as well as emissions reductions. When COVID-19 affected Hungary last year, the Orbán government showed incompetence against the pandemic leaving the country’s healthcare sector in chaos. Karácsony, in contrast called for international cooperation to overcome COVID-19.
Karácsony supports a Green Recovery for post-COVID Europe. As one of the European Greens’ politicians, he highlights that people should fight against climate change and create local sustainable enterprises. He also formed the ‘Pact of Free Cities’ looking for Europe-wide cooperation of cities that want to participate in driving forward a green economic recovery.
However, Karácsony’s path to the power might not go well according to The Guardian’s columnist Nick Cohen. In Cohen’s recent column, he worries that Karácsony does not look like the person who could be able to beat Orbán because “he is not a populist” and “[t]hey cannot beat populists by being populist.” To win, Karácsony and his partners should focus on those who “run the ruling Fidesz party and everything else that matters in Hungary.” It is not easy, but they have not given up.
At the time of press, Karácsony tweeted that he saw over 600,000 thousand votes in the first opposition primaries for the 2022 national elections and is happy to see people engaging in democracy.
Gergely Karácsony’s Facebook page
Gergely Karácsony’s Twitter