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Scandal makes local election contest unexpectedly close

October 14th, 2019

Commentators see the case of the Fidesz mayor of the western city of Győr as particularly harmful for the government side, although sex videos and audio tapes discussing corruption have also surfaced involving local opposition politicians.

A local Socialist politician was taped telling a friend how someone in his position can make ‘a hundred million Forints a year’ illegally, while the liberal Mayor of Budaörs was shown in video footage in an intimate pose with a prostitute. Nonetheless, the orgy video recorded on a yacht in the Adriatic Sea involving Győr mayor Zsolt Borkai, plus the accusations of widespread corruption levelled against him by the person who released the video, seem to have had an impact at least in urban areas. Borkai called a press conference on Friday evening to make an extraordinary announcement, while Magyar Nemzet online agreed with Budapest Mayor István Tarlós’s comments, calling on Borkai to resign. The press conference was cancelled at the last moment, while the Magyar Nemzet comment was removed.

On Index, Tamás Fábián and János Haász take such hasty and contradictory moves as proof that the Fidesz campaign team was caught off-balance by the Borkai affair. For the first time after winning eleven elections in a row (national, local and European alike), Fidesz was thrown onto the defensive in the last days of the campaign. The authors refrain from predicting the outcome of Sunday’s vote, but believe that Fidesz has been seriously wounded by the affair.

‘For the first time in human memory’, editor Péter Pető writes on 24.hu, two days before the election the Fidesz campaign ran into complete chaos. That doesn’t necessarily mean that Mr Borkai or Budapest Mayor István Tarlós will lose their posts, he adds, but the result will be closer than expected just a few days ago.

Comedian Tibor Bödőcs, a fierce critic of the government told the opposition-leaning ATV channel that both the left-wing and the right-wing politicians involved in the corruption and sex scandals should have resigned immediately. In an aside he remarks that he has nothing to fear on account of his frequent parodies of leading government politicians.

In Magyar Hang, deputy editor Szabolcs Szerető believes Fidesz will score sweeping victories nationwide despite the Borkai scandal, but may suffer sensitive losses in some of the major towns. Such relative and local successes, he continues, may fill opposition supporters with hope and serve as a basis for better results in the 2022 parliamentary elections.

In his weekly Demokrata editorial, András Bencsik complains that ‘horrible things have surfaced – and unfortunately not only on the opposition side’. It is as if, he continues, the country, rather than preparing for an election, would be in for a ruthless and bloody war’.

In a front-page column on the scandals in Élet és Irodalom, Zoltán Kovács blasts what he sees as all-encompassing corruption and dedicates the bulk of his comment to the Borkai affair. Nevertheless, in his last two paragraphs he also mentions the case of the 19th district Socialist council member and ends with a bitter line: ‘We have sunk deep enough, but at least we have made it happen hand in hand, fellow citizens.’

In Magyar Narancs, the editors call on voters dissatisfied with the government to turn up on Sunday and cast their votes for opposition candidates even if they don’t like them. The attitude of those who dislike both sides, they argue, eventually served to consolidate the Fidesz grip on power.

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