Karácsony said at the official start of his campaign that at stake will be the chance for Budapest voters to regain the right to have a say in their city's affairs. "The ballot will also decide whether incumbent mayor István Tarlós, the 'puppet' of [ruling] Fidesz, can be unseated," he said at a press conference in a Budapest market. Karácsony is fielded by the Socialists, the Democratic Coalition and Párbeszéd, and not opposed by Jobbik and the Liberals.

He said Tarlós "does not represent the interests of Budapest residents against the government, but the government's will against those residents. But I have good news for those Budapest residents who want change: opposition parties and civil organisations will run in the October ballot in each individual constituency and in all 23 districts of Budapest on a joint ticket."

Karácsony said change is about "Budapest taking back the money and institutions that have been taken away from the city; and its residents having the chance to build a community with a trait of solidarity, a community that can again be an integral part of Europe".

While he focuses on change, Tarlós' campaign is more about reminding voters what it was like for the capital before his time, when a Socialist-Liberal coalition governed the city. Asked on Kossuth Radio what kind of a campaign he is expecting, he said it will offer "more like a destabilisation attempt with no variety focused on revenge that was just thrown together and makes no sense whatsoever in terms of the management of the capital".

The incumbent mayor said the opposition's messaging is not even focused on Budapest, and the proposals they have put forward are "rather unbelievable". Tarlós argued that many of their proposals are legally unfeasible and that the opposition candidates who were competent in managing a municipality had already had their chance and failed before 2010.

He criticised the city leadership under former liberal Budapest mayor Gábor Demszky, saying "it was they who left behind the unmanageable operational deficits and it was under their tenure that Budapest's international perception was damaged". He said the opposition politicians who had been in power before 2010 "promised Budapest an actual green rainforest" at a recent press conference. "How come this never crossed their minds before 2010?" Tarlós asked. "How is it that they only planted a few hundred trees a year while we plant an average of 2000 a year?"


He said the pre-2010 Budapest leadership had not cared about historical parks such as the one on Margaret Island and had barely spent anything on upgrading public parks, which the current leadership spent 5.5 billion forints on between 2015 and 2019. He noted that back in 2010, Budapest transport company BKV had operated 24-year-old buses and 30- to 40-year-old trams. Tarlós said it was under his mayorship that Budapest transport authority BKK completed the interconnected tram network project in Buda. He also noted the renovation of Szell Kalman Square and the introduction of selective waste management as part of his record.

Since 2010, the local council has stabilised the management of the city, including BKV, he said. Budapest no longer needed an operating loan and only had a "well-managed development credit line". Trains on the third metro line were recently renovated and air-conditioning will soon be installed on them, the mayor said.

With the various developments on schedule, “in the future we'll be able to concentrate on environmental protection and the problem of homelessness". Over the past nine years, Budapest's prestige had risen in the eyes of the international community, and just this year Budapest had been awarded the title “European Best Destination”.

Majority 'back Tarlós'

Fully 57 percent of respondents in a Századvég survey said they had a positive view of Budapest Mayor István Tarlós, while 41 percent preferred Gergely Karácsony, the opposition's candidate in the upcoming municipal election. The pollster said supporters of Tarlós, the candidate of the ruling Fidesz-Christian Democrat alliance, consider him an "integrative politician" who is preferred not only be right-wingers. Karácsony, on the other hand, is seen by his opponents as an "unsuccessful (district) mayor", who has been "the central character" in the opposition's pre-selection rounds "burdened with internal fighting". Concerning other candidates, the survey found that independent candidate Robert Puzsér was not popular on either side, with 73 percent of respondents rejecting him. The report said Krisztián Berki, another independent, was even less popular, with only 3 percent support. Three quarters of respondents said they did not expect an opposition win in the election, 71 percent believing Tarlós would be re-elected for the next five-year municipal cycle.

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