Alexandra Szentkirályi withdraws from race for mayor of Budapest, endorses Dávid Vitézy

June 07. 2024. – 11:15 AM


Alexandra Szentkirályi withdraws from race for mayor of Budapest, endorses Dávid Vitézy
Alexandra Szentkirályi, the FIDESZ candidate for mayor, collecting signatures at Széll Kálmán Square on 20 April 2024 – Photo: István Huszti / Telex


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"The most important thing for me continues to be that Gyurcsány and Karácsony are removed from the helm of the city. This is why, in order to make way for change, I am withdrawing from the mayoral candidacy and will continue to campaign as the leader of the Fidesz list in the capital" – Alexandra Szentkirályi, Fidesz's candidate for mayor said on Facebook a few minutes after 8 am on Friday morning, announcing that she was withdrawing from the candidacy. She asked all of her supporters to vote for Dávid Vitézy on the ballot for mayor and for Fidesz-KDNP on the list ballot. "This is how change is possible, this is how victory is possible. On 9 June, let's remove Gyurcsány and Karácsony from the City Hall!"

Her withdrawal comes after research by Századvég published on Friday found that if Szentkirályi withdraws, Dávid Vitézy might be able to defeat Gergely Karácsony with votes from the governing parties' supporters. In that case, Vitézy would be backed by 48 percent, while current mayor Karácsony would get only 42 percent, and Grundtner 4 percent.

Within minutes of Szentkirályi's withdrawal, Dávid Vitézy wrote on his Facebook page that he had taken note of the Fidesz-KDNP mayoral candidate's decision. "Today's announcement is in fact the abandonment of the third place that became a certainty after the mayoral candidate debate," Vitézy said. Telex contacted Vitézy, but he told our newspaper that he did not want to say more than what he had posted on Facebook.

Budapest mayor Gergely Karácsony also reacted to the news with a post on his social media page, in which he said:

“The charade is over. Just as we predicted: the dark and cynical political deal has been struck. Dávid Vitézy is the candidate of Fidesz, of NER and of the ruling authority.”

Szentkirályi's potential withdrawal was a hot topic throughout the campaign.

“I don't think it is realistic at all that I would be hit by the yellow tram.” – the Fidesz mayoral candidate told Telex on 20 April, the first day of the campaign, referring to Karácsony's memorable quote from just before the second round of the 2021 opposition primaries. At the time, he told Telex that he would only withdraw from the race in favour of Péter Márki-Zay if he were hit by the tram. A few days later, he withdrew.

Szentkirályi told our paper in April that she had no plans to withdraw, and that she believes she has more and more supporters behind her each day, "so I am preparing to win this election".

Ever since opposition politician Gergely Karácsony took office as mayor of Budapest, the government has tried to hinder the city’s successful operation in multiple ways: several laws have been modified at record speed, redirecting various taxes or funds that the city used to receive into the state budget. The mayor has often spoken about the government’s measures being detrimental to the capital.

A few weeks ago, Gergely Karácsony told Telex that he had recently been made aware of a recording which proves that Fidesz candidate Alexandra Szentkirályi’s withdrawal from the race was being considered. Shortly afterwards, a reader of HVG was contacted with this question by telephone pollsters linked to Fidesz.

Early last week, ATV reported, citing government sources, that it would be decided by 1 June, the day of the Peace March at the latest, whether the Fidesz mayoral candidate would stay in the race.

“It's a canard, we don't concern ourselves with such things”

– Fidesz' press department reacted to ATV's report at the time. They added that they are working every day to make sure that Gergely Karácsony and his boss, Ferenc Gyurcsány, finally get out of City Hall and Budapest can open a new chapter.

According to the opinion polls, Szentkirályi was far from producing numbers that would have given her any chance against Karácsony. A Medián poll conducted between 17 and 22 May showed that

  • Gergely Karácsony was on 46 percent,
  • Alexandra Szentkirályi on 26 percent and
  • Dávid Vitézy on 24 percent.

A week earlier, a poll by Republikon Institute put Karácsony at 40 percent, Szentkirályi at 30 percent and Vitézy at 25 percent among party voters.

LMP, which is backing Vitézy, ordered a survey from Medián, conducted between 23 and 25 May which looked at how the distribution of power might shift if one of the candidates were to withdraw. They found that if Szentkirályi were to drop out of the race, Gergely Karácsony (41 percent) and Dávid Vitézy (40 percent) would be neck to neck.

We don't have information about the figures Fidesz's internal polling showed, but it is likely that they decided to have Szentkirályi withdraw because they are confident that Vitézy, with the additional votes from Fidesz, has a chance of defeating the current mayor.

One of the important questions of Sunday's election will be whether the votes of Vitézy and Szentkirályi can be added together. The LMP candidate for mayor is presumably likely to receive the votes of many opposition voters who are dissatisfied with Karácsony's performance so far. However, after Fidesz's Friday announcement, it is possible that some of these voters will prefer to either stay at home or vote for Karácsony.

Having previously served as state secretary for transport in the Orbán government, Vitézy spent the entire campaign arguing that he was not affiliated with Fidesz and that the decision about his candidacy for mayor was not taken at the Carmelite (former monastery, now the PM's office – TN). "I am not the candidate of Fidesz and I will never be," he said in an interview with Telex in mid-March. He also said that he believes there is only one candidate in the race whose withdrawal can be realistically expected: and that is Gergely Karácsony, “who is capable of withdrawing from an election at the most unexpected times, if the tram happens to be coming.”

"I don't think withdrawal is a realistic scenario for a party whose slogan is 'Only Fidesz' and which reinstated the party-list electoral system, where the key to the success of a list is whether it is headed by a candidate for mayor."

All the while, Gergely Karácsony kept saying that Fidesz has two candidates in the race and one of them will be withdrawn at the last minute. "At the end of the day, Dávid Vitézy will be Fidesz's candidate, and I don't think Alexandra Szentkirályi will make it to the end of the campaign," the mayor told Telex in March, and he also did not rule out the possibility of his Fidesz challenger being withdrawn in an interview published on Thursday. Karácsony said the plan was likely to be "to put Vitézy in the middle, reach into the opposition camp and then line up the other voters behind him". The only thing that might have become clear through this, he said, was that wouldn't be able to defeat him even then.

Szentkirályi campaigned until the very last minute. On Thursday, she shared photos on her Facebook page of mobilising voters in Budapest by phone and posted a video of her listening to Ferenc Gyurcsány's appearance on ATV.
On Thursday morning, an interview with Szentkirályi was published on Index, in which she mentoned Ferenc Gyurcsány, the president of DK (Demokratikus Koalíció) a total of 20 times. We would also have liked to interview the Fidesz candidate, but she refused our request, citing other commitments.

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