Budapest, February 23 (MTI) – The government has “betrayed” those who supported a local referendum to be held on Budapest’s plan to host the 2024 Olympic Games by proposing the bid’s withdrawal, the civil Momentum Movement, the proponent of the referendum, said late on Wednesday. The government has “retired in a cowardly manner”, Socialist leader Gyula Molnár commented on the government’s Wednesday proposal that Budapest’s Olympic plans should be dropped.
The government passed a resolution earlier in the day in which it proposed that the City of Budapest and the Hungarian Olympic Committee should withdraw the city’s bid to host the Olympics.
Momentum recently collected over 266,000 signatures with a view to securing a referendum on the issue.
“It is regrettable that the government… has betrayed 266,000 people by withdrawing the bid. What is more, it betrayed even the advocates of the Olympic plan,” it said.
Momentum said the signature drive was also motivated by the goal that no decision should be made on a gigantic investment project that determines Hungary’s future for several decades without the public being asked in advance.
The government has “retired in a cowardly manner”, Socialist leader Gyula Molnár commented on the government’s Wednesday proposal that Budapest’s Olympic plans should be dropped.
Ruling Fidesz shrinks from holding a referendum on the Olympic bid because it “dreads” being defeated, Molnár said in reaction to the proposal, which came after a civil group collected over 266,000 signatures in favour of such a plebiscite.
Molnár noted that the government had earlier dropped a contested ban on Sunday shopping and threw out a decree which would have enabled “shady deals” around state-owned land, and insisted that “the opposition has defeated the government three times in a year by way of (initiating) a referendum”.
The government may “manipulate” the electoral system and could “fill the Election Committee with yes-men” but it cannot prevent voters from expressing their opinion, Molnár said.
The opposition Együtt party has called on Prime Minister Viktor Orban to repay all funds so far spent in connection with Budapest’s bid to host the 2024 Olympics to the central budget.
Speaking at a press conference on Thursday, Együtt leader Péter Juhász rejected remarks by the ruling parties which suggest an earlier, consensual support for the Olympic plans, and insisted that his party had opposed them all along.
Ruling Fidesz was aiming to “loot public funds and gain political benefits” through the Olympic project, Juhász said, and demanded an account of the 27 billion forints (EUR 87.7m) spent so far and that the grand total should be re-allocated to the central budget.
Márton Pataki, the head of Együtt’s Budapest chapter, told the press conference that nearly 16 billion forints from the grand total had been awarded without any competition, through tenders with a single valid bid each.
The leftist Democratic Coalition (DK) has also demanded that the government and Budapest provide an account of its Olympic spending in the past two years. DK’s managing chairman Csaba Molnar said his party had never supported the Olympic plans, and insisted that the project would have served the benefit of “construction and PR companies close to Fidesz”.