By supporting joint candidates of the opposition parties in the October local elections, voters will have a chance to change the future course of their area, Gergely Karácsony, the left-liberal opposition candidate for mayor of Budapest, said on Friday.
The government has damaged health care, education and social care over the past nine years, Karácsony told a press conference.
“We want local governments to have a chance to repair the damage and become islands not only of freedom but of solidarity as well”, he said.
Karácsony said the opposition wanted a fairer and greener policy in the municipalities based on solidarity.
He said that as mayor of the Zugló district of Budapest he was proud of the social model established there, and it figured in every opposition party’s programme in terms of providing a national solution.
Bertalan Tóth, leader of the Socialist Party, said the main aim of the election campaign was to replace the “little kings” of the ruling Fidesz party.
He noted that as well as opposition collaboration in the capital, the opposition has agreed to cooperate on candidates in 21 county seats and in 89 localities with over 10,000 residents.
Tóth said locals had a democratic right to self-government, so the opposition wants to establish a new framework for dialogue in local governments. Employee representatives should be given the chance to help the municipality form its economic development concepts, he added.
Tóth underlined the importance of a free media and freedom of expression, and he said priority areas for left-wing local governments would be social services, education and climate protection.
Answering a question, Karácsony said that once the opposition had handed in the supporting signatures of voters, they would refrain from collecting any further signatures.
Karácsony insisted that the central government only took money away from Budapest rather than ploughing funds into it, and the city had provided a big windfall of capital to the central government over the last nine years, while the city’s debts amounted to 150 billion forints (EUR 455m).
Noting that the EU is expected to allow direct financing of municipalities in the next cycle, he said the measure would provide a great opportunity to finance the capital.
Zugló, Karácsony said, had won direct EU funding worth 2 billion forints to build affordable housing. He added that he was proud the district had made nearly 7 billion forints worth of improvements using its own resources. Almost all kindergartens have been partially or completely renovated, and this is true of district public parks too, he said.
On the controversial subject of parking arrangements in his district for which he has received strong criticism, Karácsony said Zugló had voted for a manifesto that included establishing pay zones, explaining that parking had not been available in the district. After teething problems, a parking system has now been created that is expected to produce revenue of 1 million forints a day. He noted that today, residents can park free of charge in their own neighborhood. At the next council meeting, it will be decided how to move forward on the issue of parking, he said.