So, the opposition recorded a victory in the local government elections of 2019. They crowed about their crowning victory in Budapest, and stated that a new era of transparency and growth was to be unleashed on the capital.
Not a lot has happened since. They’ve made sure that there were plenty of ‘jobs for the boys’, but from the outside looking in, it appears that everything has ground to a halt, and that can’t be a coincidence, can it?
There’s a reason for that: it’s part of a plan. The plan is to devote all their energy to doing the very bare minimum, holding back as much money as possible. This is because they have decided that this is a ‘long ball’ game. The opposition candidates and their staff who took power in the local government elections of 2019 are not interested in local governance. They’re planning to utilise the local governments they control to leapfrog over Fidesz when the 2022 elections roll around. Consider the words that all opposition local governments have taken to their hearts: the following quotes come from a man who was once a fellow party member of 9th district mayor Baranyi.
Márton Pataki was not forgotten by the incumbent mayor.
In December 2019, he replaced, or rather was installed as the new Managing Director of FEV IX, the district company responsible for asset management and car-parking revenues.
“Promise that to the extent allowed by law, local governments will use all resources in the fight against the government. Does that mean that in the next two and a half years fewer streets will be resurfaced? That the cultural centre won’t be renovated? That there won’t be any new playgrounds? Yes. But that’s not too high a price to pay if we manage to tilt the balance in the direction of the restoration of democracy.”
So, that’s what Pataki wrote. In addition to pulling in HUF 1, 190,000 a month as Managing Director, he’s also got a knack for turning out manifesto ideas.
The picture’s clearer now, isn’t it? It all makes sense now. This isn’t a case of crass amateurism preventing the smooth functioning of the state at local government level. This is more sinister than that. This is an attempt at sleight of hand. Whilst it appears from the outside that local councils are indeed now staffed by people who couldn’t find a window in a greenhouse on a sunny day at noon, that’s only partially true. It is a fact that former employees of local councils were purged. That’s something that we’ve come to accept as inevitable: the Leftwaffe perpetually bemoan the trouble of party politics seeping into every facet of life in Hungary. It must be noted, however, that they are always the first to sack experienced civil servants, among others, for alleged association with the other side.
The opposition-controlled local councils’ attempt at sleight of hand is based on a single tactic: that of crying out about imminent starvation. The only weapon they appear to have in their armoury is that of claiming that central government is starving them of funds. This is, of course, at base level, a lie. Opposition politicians, in particular the mayor of Budapest, continually lament the lack of funds they receive from central government, all the while ignoring the fact that their claims are easily repudiated by the State Treasury, which knows how much money is sitting, unused, on their bank accounts.
But from Pataki’s manifesto, we can see the blueprint revealed. These people campaigned to take control of local governments. They promised transparency in place of opacity, clarity in place of confusion. But, those were election promises nothing more.
Local governments are meant to be just that – local. Local governments have a tradition of operating, evidently, at a local level. This is where we truly expect to see civilian and political life meet. And this means that with their election victories in 2019, the opposition have revealed just how cynical they are. Once again, from Pataki:
“We have to decide what our goal is. Those who want to manage important local affairs, who want to fit into the System of National Cooperation, should ease up on cries of “dictatorship”, and should start making friends with Fidesz members, perhaps even going as far as to join the party. On the other hand, those who want to bring the system down should act as though they’re serious about what they’re saying.”
So, the whole thing is a charade. The reward of the people who live in these districts is to be denied what is their due. These people put the opposition into local governments, expecting that their lives would improve. And now they are faced with a mixture of chaos and inactivity. This is a betrayal, both of the electorate, and of the system of local governance.
And these people are fanatical, Pataki states, and there are plenty of people who believe him, that:
“there is no middle way”
Now that’s not something that we expect to hear from a modern, democratic politician, is it? That’s the sort of thing that would normally lead to accusations of dictatorial tendencies. And rightly so: government, even local government is meant to cater to all citizens, not only those who voted for the victorious.
Due to the warped view that opposition local governments take of their role, any progress which had been experienced has now stopped. All projects, if not cancelled, have had their budgets reduced to such an extent that they might as well have been cancelled. This serves only one group: the ever-cynical opposition. Claiming that they are the true democrats, they’ve chosen to twist the true role of local government into a tool to assist their ‘long ball’ game.
We can only hope that by the time we reach 2022, people will have had enough of this perversion of what local government should be. Hopefully, the simple lack of services will reveal to all what a waste of time the opposition truly are. With any luck their ‘long ball’ game will fail spectacularly as people grow weary of a dearth of public service.