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Opposition and independent mayors protested the budget cuts and pledged to bolster the Alliance of Hungarian Municipalities
In spite of strong outcry by the opposition, the Fidesz dominated parliament in Hungary passed on Friday the state budget bill for 2021. The budget was approved with a vote of 133 for, 61 against and no abstentions. The Democratic Coalition (DK) voted against, labeling the budget a show of “weakness and cowardice”, and blaming the ruling party for turning a blind eye on the ramifications of the coronavirus epidemic.
Revenge on opposition councils
At a news conference after the vote, summarised by MTI, Sándor Burány, deputy group leader of opposition Párbeszéd, said that through next year’s budget Fidesz has “taken revenge” on opposition-led municipalities. He estimated that towns and cities where the opposition won the local elections last autumn would have to meet rising costs with much smaller budgets next year. One such example is Budapest, which, for the first time in 30 years, would have to contribute more to the central budget than it would receive.
Reacting to the opposition claims, ruling Fidesz said in a statement that the 2021 budget allocates HUF 118 billion (EUR 335.1m) more to local governments than in 2020.
A show of democratic unity
Rallying behind Budapest Mayor Gergely Karácsony, opposition and independent mayors from around Hungary protested on Friday the budget cuts and called for strengthening the Alliance of Hungarian Municipalities (MOSZ). According to Karácsony, the 2021 budget bill has a “clear political motive to destroy Hungary’s system of local councils”.
It is not only the mayors who are punished but the citizens, Karácsony said in his speech, noting that the Budapest tax, imposed to pool money into the so-called coronavirus “solidarity fund”, will deprive every Budapest resident of HUF 20 000 a year.
The Hungarian government is probably the only one in the world that does not treat local governments as partners during the epidemic and the economic crisis, but rather as enemies. There is no economic reason for bleeding local governments, said the Budapest mayor, pointing to what central and local authorities do differently.
The government wants to deal with the economic crisis by supporting the powerful and the rich, we want to help the individual, the local small business. And we do this, for example, in the capital with overhead subsidies, HUF 10 000 camp subsidies, discounts for businesses in distress, discounts for job seekers, employment programs in health care and elderly care, among others, explained Karácsony.
“I have said many times in the election campaign that the power of the mayor comes from the power of the settlement and this power is invincible,” concluded Karácsony, announcing the accession of Budapest to MOSZ and encouraging the mayors of free cities to follow suit.
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