Budapest mayor Gergely Karácsony/ Opposition candidate Peter Marki-Zay/ European Parliament Vice-president, Ms. Dobrev. Wikipedia

Hungarian opposition backs conservative Catholic figure to dethrone Orban

In the spring of 2022, the Hungarian opposition believe they will have the opportunity to defeat Viktor Orban, who has been in power since 2010.

Published: October 18, 2021, 10:38 am

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    It is a prospect which, according to French daily Le Monde, has prompted six very diverse parties to unite and to choose a single candidate. Thus Peter Marki-Zay will embody the hopes of a coalition bringing together six parties from the left to the extreme right, in view of the legislative elections of spring 2022.

    They believe they are ready for anything. Six months before the Hungarian legislative election. The nationalist Prime Minister Orban will therefore have to face an improbable coalition of six parties, all united around a single slogan: “Orban, that’s enough”. There is a united front against of one of the strongmen of Eastern Europe who had pushed out left-wing parties, a social democratic trend, and in particular a move to work together with a far-right formation that Le Monde described as “formerly neo-Nazi” as in Ukraine.

    Viktor Orban’s ‘sustainable society’

    It appears that the Magyar left is ready to do anything to get rid of Viktor Orban. On Sunday, October 17, the six allies also proposed a single candidate, Peter Marki-Zay. He is conservative and Catholic, and a former voter of Fidesz – the political formation of Viktor Orban. This candidate was chosen above all for his political profile, which would prove to be difficult to attack by the Hungarian Prime Minister.

    Pro-European, anti-corruption

    At the origin of this alliance, is a simple observation: “Leftist ideas do not move the majority in Hungary today,” according to Gergely Karacsony – mayor of Budapest and a figure in the leftist opposition.

    Karacsony announced on October 8 that he would withdraw from the primary contest which will choose a joint opposition nominee to challenge right-wing Prime Minister Viktor Orban, ending his participation in a race in which he was once considered the frontrunner organized by the six parties. “I believe that Peter Marki-Zay can unite the opposition,” he said in response to his withdrawal.

    In fact, in the first round of the primaries, Marki-Zay only came in third place behind Gergely Karacsony and Klara Dobrev, a 49-year-old lawyer and vice president of the European Parliament, but his conservative pedigree won him the race.

    Peter Marki-Zay was therefore elected with 56,7 percent of the votes and will have the heavy task of challenging Viktor Orban. For the first time in twelve years, noted Le Monde, Prime Minister Orban appears to be challenged in the polls, as Fidesz is in a tight race with this unprecedented coalition.

    “We will be able to restore freedom in this country”, said Peter Marki-Zay during his inauguration speech on Sunday, October 17. Aged 49 and father of seven children, the latter intends to bet everything on his political profile, resolutely modern. He himself is a conservative and a Catholic, as well as the independent mayor of a large town in south-eastern Hungary, Hodmezovasarhely.

    Peter Marki-Zay has also proclaimed his attachment to the European Union. In favor of Hungary’s entry into the euro zone and the European public prosecutor’s office, Peter Marki-Zay has promised that once he gets elected, he would investigate many relatives of Viktor Orban, suspected of getting rich thanks to alleged nepotism.

    His profession of faith which was therefore accepted by the Hungarian left, which also made sure that the conservative candidate would not infringe “on the rights of homosexuals”. It now remains to bring down the popular Orban, determined to hold onto power.

    The candidate’s ‘migrant counter’

    In 2018, Marki-Zay announced that he would be running as an independent candidate in the mayoral by-election. His candidacy was initially supported by three opposition parties, including the Hungarian Socialist Party, Politics Can Be Different and the far-right Jobbik, with Momentum and the Democratic Coalition endorsing him a few days later.

    He said at the time that he did not sympathise with the views of any of the parties supporting him, describing himself as a right-wing Christian, and a disappointed Fidesz voter. But during his first term as a mayor, he was eventually ordered by his leftist partners to remove a “migrant counter” he had placed inside the city hall.

    Despite the historically unprecedented unity of the opposition parties backing him, his candidacy was initially seen as a long-shot by many observers, owing to Fidesz’s popularity in the city as well as his political inexperience. But they acknowledged that he had managed to become the city’s first non-Fidesz mayor since 1990.

    Following his success, Marki-Zay has continued to advocate for a nationwide unity between opposition parties. In 2018, he founded the non-partisan Everybody’s Hungary Movement [Mindenki Magyarországa Mozgalom; MMM] in order to further cooperation between opposition parties.

    In 2019, Marki-Zay ran for reelection, this time under the banner of MMM and his candidacy was once again supported by all major opposition parties. He defeated the Fidesz-backed independent candidate István Grezsa by 13478 votes to 10042, earning him a second term as the city’s mayor.

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