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Karácsony withdraws from opposition primary

Elections

Gergely Karácsony

Image: Facebook

Mayor of Budapest Gergely Karácsony announced his withdrawal from the second round opposition primary in favor of Hódmezővásárhely Mayor Péter Márki-Zay, according to a report by news site hvg.hu.

On Friday, Márki-Zay and Karácsony convened an extraordinary press conference on Kossuth tér in Budapest. Karácsony announced his withdrawal, saying that he and Márki-Zay were ready for cooperation, calling on his supporters to get behind Márki-Zay. 

"I know that this decision is not about Márki-Zay or me; it is about Hungary," he said.

He also confirmed that he would not seek a seat in the Parliament, opting to remain in his position leading Budapest instead.

Péter Márki-Zay (Photo by Ádám Draskovics)

Talking about his former opponent's withdrawal, Márki-Zay said, "we are going forward in an alliance; we are not stepping back; we are stepping forward." He also said he was preparing to face a serious smear campaign.

"Today, Karácsony proved that the interests of the country are more important than anything else," argued Márki-Zay.

An unexpected twist

In the first round of the primary process, Democratic Coalition (DK) candidate Klára Dobrev emerged as the victor, advancing into the second round in a strong position.

Dobrev received 214,319 votes (34,76%), while Karácsony, nominated by the Socialist Party (MSZP), Dialogue for Hungary (P), and Hungary's green party, Politics can be Different (LMP), got a total of 168,396 votes (27,31%). In a surprise third place, Márki-Zay of Everybody's Hungary Movement (MMM) received 125,944 votes (20,43%).

While the DK candidate managed to mobilize her supporter base successfully and gather the highest amount of votes, she also has the highest level of disapproval among people eligible to vote in the 2022 general election, according to a poll by Medián published earlier this year. Her level of disapproval stood at 39%. According to the same poll, Karácsony's disapproval stood at 15%, while only 8% of respondents said they would definitely not vote for Márki-Zay.

"Viktor Orbán's only hope is that Klára Dobrev will win the primary, becoming the joint candidate for prime minister," Márki-Zay said today, according to Index.hu.

However, he also noted that Dobrev is an incredibly accomplished and hard-working politician and applauded her for proving that women could be successful in politics.

Karácsony and Márki-Zay began negotiating over a potential withdrawal last week to unify their supporters behind a single candidate who could beat Dobrev in the second round. Talks seemed to break down by Wednesday night when both Karácsony and Márki-Zay declared that they would run separately.

On Thursday, opposition party Momentum declared its support for Márki-Zay, whose chances of beating Dobrev in the second round had grown higher than those of Karácsony, according to polls published this week by Závecz and Medián. 

According to a report by news site Index, there were already rumors on Thursday evening that, following Momentum's announcement, Karácsony had canceled all his official programs, and his staff held lengthy talks with the three parties supporting him (MSZP-P-LMP) about his possible withdrawal.

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